Fight Club
**** GM
Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf

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Many people might have reservations about Brad Pitt's ability to act. For every time he's pulled off a performance like the one in "12 Monkeys," there comes a stilted, bland "Interview With A Vampire." For every "Sleepers," there's a "Meet Joe Black." For every first 9/10 of "Seven," there's a "WHAT'S IN DA BOOOOXXXX???"

This time, though, he is EXCELLENT, and he lives up to the rest of the movie. "Fight Club" is a thought-provoking, brilliant, suspenseful, innovative and FUNNY film. Director David Fincher has made a lot of speeches about how he views it as a dark comedy, and thinks there shouldn't be any controversy about it... and I agree. I KNOW lots of ignorant morons are going to take it literally and think 'hey, cool, I wanna fight club, too!' and miss the whole point. But the film is NOT just about any underground ultimate fighting championships... or "'Rounders' with fists," as some might be led to believe.

Edward Norton is a frustrated, depressed insomniac, feeling stuck in his catalog-furnished home and soulless job as a recall estimator for a 'big name car company,' flying all over the country and meeting many 'single serving friends' to go along with his single servings of airplane meals. He discovers that there's some inherent desperation in support groups that give him some release, so he becomes addicted to them, going to every one he possibly can, and it allows him to sleep... until Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) starts showing up on the same rounds he's on - even the testicular cancer group. Stripped of his salvation, he's ripe for the picking for the enigmatic and blunt Tyler Durden (Pitt), who leads him deeper and deeper into dark impulses and twisted logic, leading to the formation of Fight Club... a place where men can work through their everyday disillusionment and dissatisfaction through the cathartic experience of raw, visceral violence, beating the living shit out of each other. The membership in this mental-defective Mouseketeer group continues to grow (literally, once Meat Loaf - who has taken to billing himself as 'Meat Loaf Aday' since his birth name was Marvin Aday and perhaps might soon be known as Meat Cougar Loaf Aday Mellencamp Phillip Michael Thomas - and his ample 'bitch tits' bosom join the club) until it starts to get out of hand and Tyler starts to give them all 'homework assignments'... and they really start to fuck with the world.

Norton has proven himself extremely capable of being a bad-ass after his amazing performance in "American History X," and his disturbing turn here once again showcases him as one of the best actors working today. The transformation from meek to macho to maniacal is enthralling to watch, and he always remains compelling. Pitt's bemused, leisurely mastermind is funny, weird and brilliantly radical in his thinking. Carter's suicidal and world-weary Marla is the interesting (and ONLY) female presence in the film, and much might be made of the fact that, in the face of all this testosterone, the woman - even the incurably mind-fucked woman - can be a signpost to compassion for the deluded and one of the driving motivations for a man losing his mind to try to hold onto his sanity at all costs.

The idea behind Project Mayhem, which is what the nationwide Fight Clubs become an army for under Tyler's influence, is borne out of a very lucid, shrewd insanity, and it's not even all that disagreeable a notion. People speak of revolution against the decay of current society, the stagnancy of the pursuit of material knick-knacks, the choking burden of insurmountable debt... but so many Americans are deluded into thinking 'revolution' means camping out in Montana wearing camouflage and makin' sure no goldurn foreigners cross our sacred borders. But Tyler's legions bring revolution to a different level - to the point of bringing society down to the basic, instinctual realm of the gritty, basement fight clubs and restarting the evolution of American life. The stuff you own ends up owning you. The person who dies with the most toys ends up a rotting corpse with a shitload of dumb crap. Destroy the debt records and everyone restarts at zero, with an equal starting ground.... it's a very intriguing concept, and seeing it brought to its fruition is just as cathartic as the frustration release of the fight clubs themselves.

It's a comedy, by the way. Dark, twisted and cynical... but it's still a funny film, as well as an emotionally-charged character study. There are so many little touches of genius spread throughout the flim - "Mr. Fincher's Opus," as Pitt has called it - that multiple viewings are going to be a necessity for anyone to get an accurate opinion of it.

Now, if only I didn't have to piss like a racehorse for two hours in the theater, I might have even enjoyed it even more...

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