Fight Club Review

Hard, isn’t it? To avoid making a joke about “the first rule of fight club.” Yes, very good. Everyone is thinking it. Jot it down on a bit of paper. Scrunch it up. Bin it. Everyone else that came before you have done it, and everyone else after will do it too. It’s not original, it’s not interesting, and neither is Fight Club, not really, anyway. Fight Club? Fine club. Fine indeed. It’s fine. But what makes Fight Club a struggle to view is not its commentary and fundamentally skewered take on Chuck Palahniuk’s view, but the response to it. The misunderstanding of it. An audience problem, that one, albeit a benefit to Fight Club anyway.

Where Fincher’s vision excels, his cast do take their time to warm with it. They are arbitrarily condensed into husky abbreviations of what the book is trying to explain and represent, the filter of good quality dwindles further and further as Fight Club finds new meaning in the pithy, slim representations Fincher and his cast can offer. But that is where much of the fun with Fight Club is found. Its representations, like that of American Psycho, are touched upon and comfortable with those that are best avoided. Fincher plays that dynamic well, the toxic masculinity at the core of Edward Norton’s performance and the rather fun, wildcard role Brad Pitt is offered mark a good start. Still, their interactions are far more compelling than their actions.  Helena Bonham Carter and Meat Loaf in particular play well with that.

Is it not difficult to figure Fight Club as the unique piece it is now that it is well loved? Does the snob living within feel unmoved by the spliced editing, the muted tones and the rivalling factions of explosive machoism and the underlining commentary of wanting to break free from the mundane? Norton’s work here, especially in the first act as he explores that banal existence, is as touching as it is horrifying. That is the real torture of Fight Club, seeing what life could be should normality resume. But Fincher goes one further than that. He does what A Single Man could not. Fincher’s work explores the alternative, as Palahniuk’s writing did too. What they discover is that normalcy may not be so bad after all, especially if the alternative is terrorist cells, black eyes and insomnia.

For those that have read Palahniuk’s afterword on his seminal novel, it is hard to pull away from Fight Club and understand the unique perspective it had at the time. It feels rather obvious, rather unfulfilling now. But that is because of what it means to so many, and how wrong they are. The judgement and viewpoint turn away from a rather exemplary piece hoping to focus on the back and forth between the left and right brain to a “fighting is good, violence is cool” lad mentality. More fool to those that believe it. Fight Club does everything it can to make that both unappealing and entertaining. The downfall of a character is rarely unengaging, yet Fight Club manages it well with the feverish quick cuts, the Meat Loaf supporting performance and a sincere, subtle takedown of male caricatures in the testosterone-clad action flick. Fight Club tricked a generation into watching a takedown of poor tropes, and it did so with ease, entertainment and, despite being rough around the edges, marks itself as very good fun.

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