on November 18, 2009
Instead of trying to inflate my self-importance by pretending to be an amateur movie critic and arguing the good/bad aspects of FIGHT CLUB, I'm going to review the actual BLU-RAY DISC for the people who may want to buy it. I will say this: I didn't like this movie at first because I didn't know it was supposed to be satire, and I didn't know what to look for; watching it on DVD changed my mind. There.
DON'T THROW OUT YOUR 2-DISC DVD JUST YET. Except for HOT FUZZ and SERENITY, I've never seen a perfect DVD-Blu-ray conversion, and this is why FIGHT CLUB only gets 4 stars instead of 5. Most of the important production materials from the 2-Disc Special Edition are here (titles, location footage, deleted scenes, etc.) but some of the footage from the DVD didn't make it (like the BTS fight choreography training); the fact that this has been replaced by a perfunctory Spike TV awards show clip (probably chosen because it was in HD) isn't much consolation. There's also no retrospective documentary, which a film like this probably deserves.
The special features menus is a little hard to navigate because there's no color highlighting on the titles, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be okay. Probably the most irritating thing is the chapter selection only offers one chapter at a time instead of a full screen of choices.
The film transfer itself is pretty sweet: the grain from the film stock is visible (very nice), but it tends to clash slightly with the compression leaving the grain looking a little bit "sparky" but not enough to be distracting (I noticed because I was deliberately scrutinizing the image, not casually watching it). There does seem to be some inconsistency in the blacks from shot to shot, and you can also see some pixellation in said blacks at certain times. Again, keep in mind I was LOOKING for this stuff, it didn't just jump out at me; although you might notice it a little more if your TV is about 46" or more.
But all this only takes 1 star off the review; nothing omitted was terribly important and the transfer is pretty great. The movie itself looks as new as the day it was made and it thankfully hasn't been altered from its original aspect ratio for 16:9 TVs. I think the $15.99 price tag on it currently makes up for any flaws.
on August 27, 2004
I had heard so much about David Fincher's popular 1999 film FIGHT CLUB that I felt that I owed myself to see what the big deal about this movie was about. Now that I have, my personal reaction can be summed up in this way: I respect the film's skill and style, but how were so many people sucked into swallowing this film whole?
Yes, this film is very well-made. Director David Fincher is a virtuoso film stylist, and he brings his hard-rock style to bear in this film even more than he did with the disturbing SEVEN. It is his unrelenting but occasionally exciting style, as well as the good performances by Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, that carries you along through most of the movie: this is a movie that vibrates with fever and energy, and the first half-hour of the movie really does draw you into the Narrator's dead-end life. (The cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth is often strikingly gritty.) And it must be said that FIGHT CLUB is never boring. How can you be bored by a movie that is as unremittingly violent, both physically and mentally, than this one? Or with Brad Pitt's character, Tyler Durden, spouting off his magnetically anarchic gospel, telling us to rebel against all the lies we've been fed by, I guess, "the establishment"? In its own way, FIGHT CLUB is a gripping visceral achievement.
And yet, what does all this blood-stained machismo add up to in the end? To a blinding revelation that supposedly sheds new light on all that has gone before, and yet simply seems like something screenwriter Jim Uhls, adapting Chuck Palahniuk's book (which I haven't read), thought might be cool to throw in, following the lead of Christopher McQuarrie's big twist in THE USUAL SUSPECTS. But even that controversial twist seemed more, not less, convincing! Did people really actually take this film's big twist SERIOUSLY? Did they really buy it as easily as they apparently did? I shared Edward Norton's disbelief during the final stages: I wouldn't have believed it either.
It is really a shame the filmmakers here felt that they had to manipulate the audience in this manner (although apparently, based on this film's popularity, they succeeded). If FIGHT CLUB had been less concerned with plot tricks than with Norton's character and how he gets out of the rut he feels he's in with his life, this film might have been an immeasurably better film. For me, all the graphic violence and, later, the fascism of this film really blunted whatever message Fincher and Uhls are trying to convey here. I seriously cannot tell whether this film is meant to be an attack of Tyler Durden's gleeful anarchy or a celebration, so explicit and indulgent this movie is regarding the violence it purports to condemn. Really, this film would have been a lot more disturbing if FIGHT CLUB had focused on the Narrator and the changes he makes in his sad life, instead of being merely ugly and muddled.
As it is, FIGHT CLUB is an unfortunate mess of interesting ideas about rebelling against society buried under a lot of impressive filmmaking style and a lot of brutal violence. David Fincher is undoubtedly a talented filmmaker---his 1995 film SEVEN was an equally grisly but much more disturbingly effective serial-killer thriller---but this film is basically a triumph of style over substance. Though never boring, it is at heart a very stupid macho movie, and I am amazed that more people haven't seen right through its intellectual pretensions. Skip it.
If you have ever felt anesthetized by modern life, bored with the world of 9 to 5 and sitcoms on the way to yawning yourself to sleep, or pondered if you could have ever become the stereotyped "loner who becomes a serial killer" if your life had turned out differently, "Fight Club" has some surprising things to say to you.
This film was very badly promoted upon its 1999 release, showing only its title aspect, wherein young men meet in private to pummel one another into oblivion. The surprise as a first-time viewer, years later, is that this is only the middle third of the story, a turning point for an anchorless character who apparently has no family or friends and isn't fond of his job, almost literally sleepwalking his way through a life devoted to filling his empty world with marginally interesting stuff and looking for something that might make him feel alive.
The insomniac narrator of the film falls into a rather different circle of friends when his condo is blown to smithereens and he is forced to downgrade his lifestyle considerably. His introduction to Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) further changes his life path, as our young automobile corporation risk assessment expert begins to reject his superficial, lonely life. If we didn't grasp the obvious antimaterialistic tone of the script, we surely get it now, as it is literally pounded into our faces repeatedly.
The dialogue during this first two-thirds of the film, prior to and including most of the story involving the actual club, is absolutely brilliant, crackling with wit, insight, and great one-liners. "We're a generation raised by women," Pitt says at one point, in reference to the male-only club. "I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer we need." And when Pitt tells his new friend he should get married, he says, "I can't get married. I'm a 30-year-old boy."
At some point this becomes a modern punk version of "A Clockwork Orange," Durden and his club becoming a gang devoted to mayhem on a national scale, taking their anger and frustration to the streets, raising their aim from personal self-destruction to that of dragging the whole world down to their level. The club becomes a rancid cult of personality, Durden's backward spirituality permeating those around him until they become, ironically, as faceless and drone-like as the corporate workers they pretend to care about "freeing" from their lives of 9 to 5 and sitcoms.
But the plot twist at about the two-thirds spot of the film, while I never saw it coming, was a cheap device in my mind that completely ruined the film's earnest message for me. An attempt to raise the bar of its own story, which was fine on its own, this twist (far be it from me to reveal anything here) came off as nothing more than an unwelcome intruder and unnecessary complication that only caused me to lose interest in what had been an unusually original, thought-provoking, brutal (in both the good and bad senses of that word) experience.
It basically goes downhill from there, apparently trying very hard to sell the idea that said plot twist is a real part of the story and not just another manipulation on the part of one main character. By this time, as a viewer, I was totally lost to the story, as the film became something else entirely, spiraling down to an inexplicable ending that only leaves one saying, "Huh?"
I will certainly give "Fight Club" credit for its originality. And again, it is brilliant in the extreme for its first two-thirds. Certainly not recommended for anyone under 18, nor for the squeamish of any age, "Fight Club" is worth seeing for its clever camera tricks and editing, for its social commentary, and mostly for the remarkable prose of the words put into the actors' mouths by screenwriter Jim Uhls, based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk.
But the final 45 minutes or so really ruins what could have been a gripping classic piece of punk cinema, rather than the severely flawed underground cult favorite it has become. Still, if the so-called "brilliant plot twist" were removed and the ending had been untwisted and come about a half-hour sooner, this would clearly be a five-star winner.
Kinda like having a great steak dinner with burnt toast for dessert.......
on July 18, 2016
Well acted, but too dark for me. For those who enjoy exploring the outer reaches of human nature, and seeing characters placed under extreme stress, this is more to your liking. The movie is loosely based on real happenings twenty+ years ago, with which I am loosely affiliated, so watched it, again, out of curiosity, and to see if I could get through the whole thing this time. Answer: No!
on March 11, 2001
**sigh** This movie depresses me, not because it's sad or mean-spirited, though it certainly is the latter for much of the film, but because many people just don't get it. "It was fascist!" "It was chauvanist!" "It was misleading!" Most of these comments boil down to, "It made fun of me!", in which case one may certainly be right. The film is thoughtful and violent on a much deeper level than quasi-philsophical fare like The Matrix, but it's ultimately optimistic. There's a lot of parody to the movie, but there's also a lot of serious social commentary. Fight Club is dangerous. That much, everyone can agree on. Much whining takes place concerning the film's apparent lack of social responsibility, but all Fincher does is address the obvious. Yes, there are disenfranchised American men everywhere, and they need more than they have. Fight Club is the other side of the American Beauty coin - sex is one issue that is coming to a head, aggression is another. An eerie similarity in the 'resignation' scenes in both of these movies proves that point. Jack may not like women, but Marla is more than he bargains for and surprises him to the point that he risks everything he has for her, pitting himself against his role model, Tyler. The violence here is painful, that's true, but I much prefer the honesty of Fight Club's non-lethal beatings to the kinetic, casual cruelty of The Matrix's now-infamous Lobby Scene, in which at least thirty people are brutally killed. This is, again, the perfect companion peice to American Beauty. Watch Fight Club, and think.
on July 19, 2000
first off, let me establish that i admire fincher as a director, (SEVEN was excellent), this film is well shot, and as usual edward norton is excellent, along with brad pitt... but please, if i have to listen once more to spoiled, rich actors decrying the capitalist system that they themselves have exploited... and the "provocative" ideas explored here? let me sum up-- "material possesions are bad, there's more to life than your things, find your own truth"-- gee, thanks for that guys... one last thing, the ending, far from being clever, cheapens all that has proceeded it, and is akin to an "it was all a dream" episode from countless sitcoms... all concerned could have done far better
on June 10, 2015
Last night was the very first time I have ever watched this movie. One of my Facebook friends bought me a copy because I had never seen it. I knew this movie had a cult following and after finally watching, I'm trying to understand why. Maybe if I watched it several more times, it'll grow on me, but I have a feeling I won't for quite a while. It wasn't all bad. It did have some decent and funny moments. I liked Helena Bonham Carter's character. The middle half of the movie was probably the best, but it went down-hill for me when the 'fight club' basically turned into a cult and the weird twist involving Brad Pitt's character.
Edward Norton stars as a traveling automobile company employee who suffers from insomnia. He's known as The Narrator because he visits support groups to see how other people suffer. He eventually meets a woman a lot more miserable than him named Marla Singer. After his apartment explodes, he calls up Tyler Durden, a man who he befriended on a plane. They slowly start a 'Fight Club' where guys meet up and just beat each other up. If you like movies that are supposed to be considered 'great' you might enjoy FIGHT CLUB!!!
on January 8, 2003
"Fight Clubs" evokes passionate responses; it bewilders some, digusts others, and awes many, particularly young males. If it impresses with the chances it takes in narrative form and cinematic bravado, it also proves problematic, cohering only on a peripheral level and ending its tale with a rather forced resolution that doesn't quite pull the thematic elements together. Fincher is, without a doubt, a talented director with a visual style all of his own; he produced "Fight Club" with a sparkling clear, but gloomy, photography that highlights its exisentialist ideas. But the telling is too forceful and heavy-handed, relaying its meaning and themes with blinders on. But by far the biggest drawback is that "Fight Club" is not as smart as it thinks it is. Its philosophy is ultimately too simplistic to be convincing.Among relatively new directors, Fincher is at the head of his class; his style is sophisticated enough to be taken seriously, and he generally handles his films with impressive skill. It's a treat to see, for example, how well he combines CGI techniques with traditional camerawork in this film. But his direction is far from perfect. While it's not a fault of the film by any means, my other problem with "Fight Club" is the mythic status it has attained among specific segments of the movie-going public. It's a film that is prone to over-intellectualizing and hyberbole, and since its release it has been a victim of both. By the way, if you do like this film, you will be happy with the DVD; the picture and sound quality is top notch.
Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)
[originally posted 13Oct2000]
Fight Club is one hundred thirty-nine minutes long. It would, perhaps, have been better served by being one hundred thirty-four minutes long. Right up until the last five minutes, Fincher was angling to become another of the directors to have more than one film on my hundred-best list (a quick run-through shows he'd be the ninth, but don't quote me on that)*. That said, I'm going to focus on those first hundred thirty-four minutes.
I had some problems for the first half-hour or so with the Bret Ellis-esque fascination with brand names (excepting, of course, the wonderfully clever scene in which Fincher populates Norton's character's condo with catalog pages), but once I realized that Palahniuk was actually going somewhere with his brand-consciousness mayhem, it stopped being annoying. (Memo to Bret Easton Ellis: learn something.) The dialogue and the narration were both clever, witty, and in places laugh-out-loud funny. Fincher, as is his wont, keeps things atmospherically dark and claustrophobic, and all of it adds up to a powder keg with a bunch of small compartments ringing the big one. Little jolts hit now and then, mostly connected in some way to Marla (Helena Bonham Carter, in an extremely unexpected role) and her relationships with Tyler Durden and the narrator.
For those who may have been living in a cave the last year and a half, a quick synopsis: Norton, a nameless corporate drone (the corporate version of a claims adjuster, in essence), meets the enigmatic Tyler Durden on a flight from one generic city to another. Durden is everything the narrator is not; mysterious, ebullient, straightforward. The two become fast friends after a freak accident blows the narrator's condo apart. (The astute cinemagoer should already be seeing the parallels to the underrated Lowe/Spader flick Bad Influence.) As part of the deal Durden strikes with the narrator in exchange for letting the narrator crash at his place, Durden asks the narrator to hit him. The two get involved in a fight, and the narrator, a support-group addict, realizes how liberating it can be to simply fight. Eventually, the street brawls the two get into regularly start attracting others who are drawn to this brand of redemption through violence, and Fight Club is begun.
Despite the trailers for the film and my expectations after seeing Fincher's earlier work, the amount of violence in here is kept to about the minimum it has to be to get the point across; there are only two or three scenes that actually cause winces. More surprising was the film's comedic aspect; I laughed out loud a few times while alone, something that rarely happens when watching movies. It all comes together perfectly, the archetypal modern tragedy brought stylishly down to the level of metatheatre during the film's climax... and then it all goes belly-up. One imagines (gleefully, it must be said) Aristophanes or Sophocles rising from the grave to smack Fincher across the head with a skeletal hand and growl "what the hell were you THINKING?"
Still, unlike usual, I refuse to let the last five minutes of this film deter me from singing the praises of the first two hours plus. Script, direction, casting (did I really forget to mention Meat Loaf? The man was fantastic... and I really have to say, I don't care if it IS his real last name, "Meat Loaf Aday" is even funnier...), setting, cinematography, it was all fantastic. Tarantino meets Hitchcock with a dash of John Ford thrown in. But then ending keeps it from reaching the heights it deserves. ***
* ed. note 9Dec2013: Dario Argento, David Cronenberg, John Frankenheimer, William Friedkin, Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet, Takashi Miike, Yasujiro Ozu, George A. Romero, Martin Scorsese, Béla Tarr, Orson Welles, and Billy Wilder (thirteen, if you don’t feel like counting) are all represented in the Top 100 by two films apiece. No one currently has more.
on February 2, 2015
The movie gives a view of the darkest sides of human existence. It is well acted and the cast was well chosen. I see the philosophy the movie is trying to push but I don't buy into it because it is a false dichotomy. I suppose the movie has value in that is shows the manifestations of an anti-reason existence.
I would recommend people watch Ayn Rands the Fountainhead to see a real rational rebellion.