Volume 93, Issue 28

Wednesday, October 20, 1999


Fight Club loses in decision

Johanson draws wayward public to her bosom

Lists cures trivial needs

Bowie's Hours... time well spent

Just say no to the evils of the idiot box

Fight Club loses in decision

Photos by Merrick Morton
HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF SECRET? IT'S STRONG ENOUGH FOR A MAN, BUT MADE FOR A WOMAN. Ed Norton lectures Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter about the wonders of personal hygiene and beating people's faces into a bloody pulp in Fight Club.

By Anthony Turow
Gazette Staff

David Fincher's new film, Fight Club, is the quintessential example of style triumphing over substance. It looks great, can be very clever and entertaining at times, but ultimately leaves the audience slightly disappointed.

Anyone familiar with Fincher's previous films (Seven, The Game) knows he loves to challenge preconceived conceptions about the world by employing surreal plot twists and shocking endings. Things in Fincher's world are not as they seem and Fight Club is no exception. Any attempt to try to explain the plot beyond the premise would be futile, as there are so many contrived surprises.

Edward Norton plays a corporate employee who is constantly away on business. He's disillusioned, suffers from insomnia and finds the only way he can connect with his true emotions is to attend victim support groups and pretend he's dying of a terrible disease.

He eventually befriends Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a charismatic anarchist who is angry at a number of social establishments. One night, the two have a fistfight – an experience which transforms them. Soon they establish a fight club so others can vent their frustrations with their fists.

This leads to Fight Club's big problem – there aren't enough fights. Granted, the importance of a stimulating story is not to be underestimated, but centring a movie around a fight club and then only having a handful of fight scenes is a tease.

Instead of raw pugilism, we get a whole lot of theorizing, courtesy of Pitt's character, about how corporate America is robbing us of our souls. These political diatribes and the ensuing events they provoke seem pointless and misdirected. Just why is Tyler so damn mad anyway?

Give Pitt credit for making the most of the material. In spite of his constant sermonizing, his misanthropic rebel leaves an unsettling impression. What he says may get annoying, but there's something about his delivery which is extremely creepy. Norton also does a decent job playing the everyman who is exposed to the darker side of life. His character acts as the moral compass for the film – the voice of reason in the face of snowballing chaos.

Performances aside, Fight Club's only other redeeming quality is its wonderful sense of style. The film's first half is raw, visceral, funny and compulsively watchable.

Fincher's direction transcends mediocre material with the use of extreme close-ups, a hilarious interlude where characters speak directly to the camera, flashbacks and flashforwards. You name it, Fincher does it.

The problem is he can only sustain his hand tricks for so long. Just as the energy begins to drain from the film, an absurd plot twist, one so head-scratchingly bewildering, is introduced. This is the sink or swim moment for viewers, one which may leave many struggling for air.

It may also prove to be Fight Club's big draw. In the wake of Sixth Sense and other films which pull the rug out from under its audiences, people are clamouring for films which jolt and surprise. While surprises are important, so is being convincing. Which is ultimately the reason Fight Club finds itself knocked down for the count.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999