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FIGHT CLUB

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto
Director: David Fincher
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 2.40:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 139 Minutes
Release Date: June 6, 2000

Film ****

Few directors have been capable of creating such visually dazzling atmospheres. When you think of a visual filmmaker, names like Tim Burton, Barry Sonnenfeld, Alex Proyas, or even the late, great Stanley Kubrick come to mind. Well, you can add one more name to the list. After only three films in the past seven years, David Fincher has become, I think, one of the most brilliantly stylish directors making films today.  He came onto the scene in 1992 with Alien 3, whose visual excellence made up for its lackluster plot.  Then came 1995's Seven, one of the best serial killer films ever made. Fincher's vision mixed in perfect with an intense script. Then in 1997, he created a twisted puzzle of a psychological thriller with The Game Now, Fincher has delivered what I think will be his most superior, masterful film with the one-of-a-kind movie experience that is Fight Club.

The film begins by introducing us to Jack, played to absolute perfection by Edward Norton, who has established himself as one of the great actors of our time. Jack is an employee at an automobile manufacturer. On a business flight, he meets the charismatic, flamboyant Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Tyler is a soap salesman who has an unconventional view of life. Having lost his apartment to an explosion, Tyler agrees to let Jack stay with him. He teaches Jack lessons about freedom and empowerment, then the two begin to physically fight each other as a means of release and rebirth.  Pretty soon, other men discover this form of therapy, and soon Fight Club is born. Tyler assumes leader of Fight Club, whose first and second rule are "You do not talk about Fight Club." It's a club that encourages men to beat each other up, just as you would think. 

The concept alone is intriguing and somewhat original, but it's Fincher restless style that turns it into a visual masterpiece.  Watching Fight Club, I felt my senses being just as much assaulted as the first time I experienced Kubrick's Clockwork Orange.  The violence is very graphic, and maybe too much for some viewers to stomach.  Most of the fights turn into brutal blood baths. Like Clockwork Orange and Natural Born Killers, it's a film that is likely to give you a headache after viewing the first time, but that's part of the overall effect.  Thereís hardly ever been a film with a strong social statement like the one in Fight Club, which is all about a group of men who refuse to fall victim to everyday society and its rules.

Although Brad Pitt is the top-billed star of the film, a lot of credit should go to Edward Norton. Ever since his astounding debut in Primal Fear, he has turned in one amazing performance after another. Now that his monumental work in American History X garnered him a second nod; people are finally starting to take notice of his fine screen presence.  In Fight Club, he turns in yet another winner. His narration helps guide us through this bizarre atmosphere.  To give you an idea of how amazing the dialogue in the narration is, at one point, Jack discovers an outrageous twist, and his voice over narration says, ďPlease return your seatbacks and tray tables to their upright positionĒ. This perfectly acknowledges that he, along with the audience have been completely fooled. Itís simply amazing to experience.

Casting Brad Pitt for the role of Tyler Durden was a great decision. He is truly perfect for the role of a man with different views of life, which trigger his questionable actions. Tyler Durden could be considered more of a restrained version of Jeffery Goines from 12 Monkeys. Pitt is usually preferred as the romantic lead, but I think he fares much better in films like this and Seven and 12 Monkeys, where he really shines in more intense roles.

Fincher has also been known for throwing a surprise twist or two into his films. He did it so well in The Game and Seven, but in Fight Club thereís a twist that comes way out of left field. I wonít reveal what it is, except it sort of delves into Sixth Sense territory, but it doesnít just end at that.  Fight Club is a brilliant piece of cinema with a remarkable vision.  It shows the work of an amazing filmmaker who dares to have the audience jolted at every possible twist and turn. David Fincher is a rare movie director who keeps making one terrific, original, dazzling movie after another. I canít wait to see his next film.

Video ****

First off, I would like to immediately announce that this is the best DVD release of the year so far. Fox threw all that it could into this release, which is the first of the studioís double disc editions. As much as I love this movie, I found the treatment this disc got was worth every amount of effort. Keep it up, Fox! Now on to the video quality. Quite simply amazing with a capital A! The picture is always alive, whether showing off its dark colors, or itís bright ones. No grain detected at any moment. Fincherís last two movies, Seven and The Game, were strangely not given the anamorphic treatment. However, Fight Club is given one glorious anamorphic enhancement.

Audio ****

About all of David Fincherís films that are available on DVD all have stellar audio transfers, and so I had a feeling that the audio transfer on Fight Club would be that of a knockout. The result equaled my expectations a hundred percent. In fact, very few discs have been able to rock me out of seat almost with the audio quality, but Fight Club just about did that. Itís a transfer that even puts a disc such as The Matrix to shame in terms of perfection of sound. The kinetic techno score by The Dust Brothers blasts blasts through the speakers in crisp, clear form. Truly an outstanding job.

Features ****

It doesnít end with the transfer; there are some exciting extras to cause a knockout. First off, there are four separate commentary tracks, including a terrific one with Fincher, Pitt, Norton, and Carter that is very informative and occasionally funny. Also included are 17 short featurettes on the making of the movie, deleted scenes, a huge publicity section including trailers, TV spots, and even ads for the movie that were exclusive to the Internet! Itís a disc so filled to the brim with extras, that it might take you more than a day just to get through everything.

Summary:

Fight Club is an uncompromising, mind-rocking, sense-assaulting, modern American masterpiece. Without a doubt, one of the greatest films 1999 had to offer. Thereís never been a movie like it before, and there probably wonít be another one like it again. You may like it, or you may hate it, but anyone with an open mind can watch it and be rocked by it in one way or another.