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Fight Club

Starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf Aday, Jared Leto
Screenplay by Jim Uhls
Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Directed by David Fincher

IN SHORT: The Matrix + Blood - SF pretentiousness [Rated [R], 135 minutes]

Gee, there it is in the paper. A controversy about violence in the movie Fight Club, in which bare chested, bare knuckled men beat each other up for the fun of it. And there appears to be some controversy about it -- as if you don't see violence ten times this on television every night? The only difference is in the makeup. When Chuck Norris, Texas Ranger kicks in a face, the body goes down. When any of the men in Fight Club punch in a face, there be buckets o' blood. "Film" tries to imitate reality. "Teevee" is for drinking beer and not thinking too much.

Fight Club is a bar brawl on the big screen with dialog reminiscent of, but a shade less preachy than The Matrix. Thanks to the folks at Entertainment Weekly magazine, we know that director David Fincher's intent was to create a dark satire. If it succeeds at the box office, it would be ironic 'cuz all the light satires (ie. the comic ones) released this year went down in flames. Fact is, we like violence. We like bloodshed and we are inured to it after too many years of ever escalating special effects. Fight Club is brutal at times, but the overall impression Cranky walked away with is perfectly summed up in the IN SHORT line above. The story is easier to follow than The Matrix. The dialog is almost as annoying and one other critic (her boss is 26 and loved Fight Club. We're both older than he) looked at me as we left the theater and said "Are we too old for this?" It isn't the violence that is numbing in Fight Club. It's the feeling that a decisive generational line has been drawn. You're either going to love it or hate it.

In a cubicle in a car company is a man in a white shirt whose name we will never know. Call him "The Narrator" (Edward Norton) 'cuz it's his story that is told to us. His job as "recall coordinator" means he has to look at car accidents all day, in cities all across the land. His job description means that it is his responsibility to determine if a particular type of accident will cost the company more in a liability lawsuit than if the company orders a recall and fixes the root problem before more accidents occur. It's a mind-numbing job made worse by the cookie cutter cubicle and the catalog furnished apartment and the throbbing pain in his head caused by chronic insomnia and fantasies about death and plane crashes and destruction.

His doctor won't prescribe pills for the pain, recommending that The Narrator go to a support group for men with testicular cancer, "to see what real pain is." Chief victim among these menfolk is Robert Paulsen (Meat Loaf Aday) a pathetic soul whose treatment for cancer caused him to grow enormous breasts, which The Narrator finds comforting. It's a real fine line between pathos and mental illness we sit through here, 'cuz this is where Fight Club begins to slip in the sick stuff. The Narrator finds comfort in these support groups. He goes to one every night of the week -- lymphoma, tuberculosis, brain parasites -- it doesn't matter which, contact with real humans in pain helps him sleep. As fellow support group addict Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) puts it, "it's cheaper than a movie and the coffee is free." Marla's role in what follows is important, as she becomes sexually involved with the Third Man in our story . . .

When his apartment is blown up -- the police are still looking into the cause -- the Narrator bunks with soap manufacturer/salesman Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), whom he met on some airplane flight. Durden dresses in abandoned Quiana shirts, lives in an abandoned, ramshackle house and spouts gibberish about man's place in the world. For fun, Narrator and Durden beat each other up in a nearby parking lot. The fights draw attention. Other dispossessed souls want in, and the Fight Club is born of an underclass of waiters, beat cops, busboys, all the disenfranchised emasculated men who can only feel virile while they beat up on each other. It isn't about winning or losing. It's about testosterone and taking the newly found confrontational attitude back to the office. Tyler Durden tosses off soundbyte-sized phrases (that screenwriter Jim Uhls and original novelist Chuck Palahniuk can take credit for), all shocking pronouncements that make us giggle 'cuz they hit like fast jabs in a boxing ring. Soon the Fight Club is calling itself Project Mayhem; Tyler Durden is leader of a destructive cult. The Narrator realizes that what he once referred to as "Ozzie and Harriet beating each other up" has evolved into something quite insane. In trying to take it all apart, he finds that what he helped set in motion is not what it appears to be at all.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Fight Club, he would have paid...


Rental level. And I feel way too old for this...

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