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Fight Club (1999)
Director: David Fincher

review by Tony Lee

There's a saying about institutional mental patients and the treatments available: 'neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics live in them, and psychiatrists collect the rent.' That's applicable to this very intriguing dark fantasy in which a troubled yuppie quits his job after becoming involved with an illegal boxing cult, and plots random acts of terrorism against the moneymen of corporate America. However, I won't tell you why the joke fits this film so well because there's a vital bit of info that's withheld from the audience in this film and to tell you what it is would spoil the fun. Suffice to say that this story detail may be likened to a secret revealed at the end of The Sixth Sense. I'm inclined to admit that, although I noted a couple of major clues early on, I didn't appreciate their meaning until the film's cleverly devised final plot twist is itself revealed by the filmmakers. I could tell you more about the plot, but that's against the first and second rules of Fight Club.

The screenwriter of Fight Club obviously knows his Nietzsche, and there's an intelligent subtext that critiques everything from conspiracy theories, pervasively fashionable consumerism and the whole male-bonding shtick. And yet, Fight Club really isn't very profound at all. Where exactly is the alleged 'big' message in this film? How come so many people have failed to realise this is a just another satire... a rather trite comedy? Yes, it's a very savage black comedy - a cracked knuckle sick-bag comedy, that's not unlike the late Robert Altman's acerbic M*A*S*H in tone, but this film is certainly not to be taken seriously at all. Honestly, Fight Club is nothing more than Gremlins with a hard-on.

I don't think Fight Club is quite so good as director David Fincher's earlier Se7en, but it is an improvement of sorts on The Game, and helped to propel Fincher into the first rank of socially-concerned American auteurs. His witty and cunning tales of urban paranoia, out/ insider characters, and multi-layered narratives (think of the triple-bluff plot in The Sting and you have the essence of Fincher's typical game-plan) are always entertaining and sometimes inspired, albeit inspiration of the lunatic fringe variety, not artistic genius uniqueness. Fight Club's teaming of the virtually iconic Brad Pitt (Twelve Monkeys) with Edward Norton (obviously much less serious here than he was in American History X - where his fascist thug was utterly convincing), makes for an engaging contrast in Hollywood actors, while the pivotal character of Marla (Helena Bonham-Carter), is wholly essential to the scenario beyond the actual fighting club, as her presence creates a romantic threesome - admittedly, a wildly twisted version of the eternal triangle - with Norton's Jack, and Pitt's enigmatic Tyler, at the hub of this offbeat tragedy.

DVD extras: Overkill! This completely uncut two-disc set from 20th Century Fox launches the DVD label's definitive edition series in very distinctive 'steel-book' packaging, and boasts a massive range of documentaries, behind-the-scenes expo material, and shovel-fisted loads of promo stuff that was groundbreaking when this DVD was first released several years ago. The four commentary tracks look at every aspect of the film, dissecting its content, discussing its source (Chuck Palahniuk's novel) and revealing its numerous aesthetic influences and the CGI creativity of its celebrated visual motifs. Assorted bonus items also include: seven deleted/ alternate scenes, photo and art galleries that won't quit, a wealth of trailers and TV and online spots, plus a music video, and an interview with Edward Norton.
Fight Club - definitive edition DVD

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