Okay, so there’s this guy whose name we don’t get to learn, but he’s played by Edward Norton. This guy hates his life and is waiting for it to end. He works for a car dealership, and has to fly all over the world, meeting all sorts of “single-serving” people on airplanes. They’re “single-serving” because they only serve one purpose, and after you land, you never see them again. “Clever,” I thought. So did another passenger.
This other guy is played by Brad Pitt, but he gets a name. Said name is Tyler Durden, a man who makes soap for a living, while also spending time as a waiter. The pair chat, and Tyler gives our protagonist his business card, because that’s the friendly thing to do. Our lead, who I’ll refer to as “Narrator” from this point forward because he narrates the film, comes home to a burning apartment building. The police speculate that it his oven caused the fire. It sucks for him, but he calls his new-found friend. They go out for drinks, and at the end of the night, wind up in a fight. Not because they were disagreeing about anything, but because they wanted to feel what it was like. Narrator ends up spending the night, and the forthcoming nights, at Tyler’s rundown, lousy excuse for a house.
Soon enough, the characters are fighting again, still outside the same bar. This goes on for weeks, we’re told. They show up once every week and just have at one another. Spectators even start to appear. One of them asks to join in. Eventually, they’re all fighting in the basement of the bar, have rules, and have become a fully blown cult. The leaders of this cult are Narrator and Tyler, although the latter seems to becoming the sole leader, while Narrator just goes about his life.
After a while, this underground fight club has grown into a nationwide phenomenon. Well, at the very least, there are a bunch of other fight clubs starting up all over the country. And the people in the clubs aren’t just fighting anymore; instead, they’re performing tasks that go part in parcel with Tyler’s beliefs about the world. They’re essentially becoming terrorists, and listen to their leader with complete obedience without ever giving it a second thought.
This continues for a while and encompasses the rest of the film’s runtime. There’s also a girl named Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) who drops in whenever she pleases, although her character isn’t all that important. This is a two-man show with Norton and Pitt, with Pitt being the charismatic anarchist who doesn’t believe in material possessions, and Norton being the depressive one who needs to find out how to really live.
Oh, and there’s a twist ending. It’s one that I’ll admit surprised me, although it didn’t really change much of the plot much. It was just kind of there, made just to surprise you, but it doesn’t change how you see the earlier portions of the film. You admire that you were deceived for as long as you were, but that’s about as deep as the twist goes. If it hadn’t occurred, you wouldn’t feel differently about the film as a whole, and it doesn’t improve it.
For most of the time that Fight Club is playing, I was having a good time. It has an engaging story that deals with some interesting themes, characters and situations, and it kept me from getting bored. The fights that the title implies don’t actually show up all that frequently, which I found surprising. The club itself gets more or less forgotten about after the halfway point, with no real fights occurring after this point. That’s fine, although I realized that after the club decided to become a simple cult, the film got progressively less interesting.
See, in the earlier parts, Narrator’s narrations were humorous, and the characters were all interesting. We wanted to see more of them, and we wanted to learn about them. The script was sharp and the situations fun. Everyone has a good time. But then the members of the fight club end up becoming like brainwashed servants, and the only depth of character comes from Narrator’s, who becomes less interesting the more we learn about him. The humor also dies down as we progress through the story and Narrator stops talking directly to us.
The performances are quite good though, with each of the primary actors giving strong performances. I believed that Norton was a depressive insomniac, while Brad Pitt embodied a charming and muscular cool guy. Bonham Carter gives us a performance as a chain-smoking woman with a death wish, while Meat Loaf plays a man who had testicular cancer and — just see for yourself.
The director is David Fincher, who gives each scene such amazing depth, while also keeping the pacing tight. There aren’t moments where you’ll be bored, even if some people would argue that the violence he chooses to show goes over-the-top. I’m not in that camp, although there was one scene that seemed a tad unnecessary, where one character pounds another with fists for a good 30 seconds after the victim is already bloodied on the ground.
Fight Club is a well-made, brilliantly paced and superbly acted film that won’t leave you bored. While it does get slightly less entertaining as it progresses, the story and performances will keep you interested. There’s a lot to take in, and the violence will be unbearable for some, but I found it to be incredibly entertaining, even if I thought the twists ending was a little pointless. Whatever. The point is, it’s a fun film that you’ll probably want to watch more than once, because of how enjoyable it was the first time, and because you’ll probably miss some of the subtleties injected into each scene.