THERE HE IS, in all his glory: Brad Pitt, that beautiful, chiseled chunk of celebrity manhood. You want him? Go see "Fight Club." You want action, muscle and atmosphere? You want boys bashing boys in bloody, living color? "Fight Club" is your flick, dude.
But if you want a movie that makes sense and doesn't make you chuckle at its sophomoric satire, laugh this one right off your list. And keep reading this review, written by a graying wiener with a bad back who never got in a bar fight in his life.
So, what is this movie about, other than casting, atmosphere and testosterone? If your biggest lamentation in life is that Internet catalogs force you to want to buy things and life just seems to be about working so you can furnish your home with Scandinavian furniture, then Jim Uhl's screenplay is about something.
If this still doesn't feel like enough, David Fincher's fluid direction is there to complete the process, to make you swear "Fight Club" speaks to the frustrated, bare-knuckled Brad Pitt inside all of us -- or something.
Edward Norton is the "Narrator," a faceless worker bee in an insurance company whose life consists of two modes: work and consumption. He prioritizes his workload into "primary action items" by day and fills his condominium with consumer items by night.
Desperate to find something meaningful, he has been attending self-help groups of every stripe, from testicular cancer survivors to tuberculosis victims.
Posing as a member of every group, he feeds on grief, emotional support and crying. But his parasitical life is destroyed when he runs into Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), a chain-smoking, darkly dressed hipster who seems to be doing the same scam.
Disgusted at seeing himself reflected in her, our narrator avoids her. He even works out a schedule so they don't bump into each other. That's when he meets the man who will change everything: Tyler Durden (Pitt), who is everything our narrator is not: a ripped, confident, brilliant, iconoclastic angry guy, who's afraid of nothing.
Wouldn't you know it, no sooner has our narrator met Tyler, when an enormous explosion rips his condo right out of its concrete moorings. No more condo, no more life. He moves into Tyler's atmospherically seamy, cool pad, an abandoned house with a leaking roof, cracked walls, intermittent electricity and plenty of room.
A beautiful partnership is born. What is their dream? To create a fight club where people who also want to bust heads when they think about credit cards, driver's licenses and the whole automated system of life, can meet and beat the crap out of each other. But there's always a lot of love in the room.
The Fight Club leads to darker things, of course. Suddenly our friends are sitting on top of an organization that is becoming bigger, louder and more menacing to society. Even worse, the movie has succumbed to Hollywood story inflation. It flops to the concrete, artificial blood gushing from its picturesque wounds, while Tyler becomes increasingly speechy about the great plague of consumerism that has befallen the globe. It's the kind of consumerism that spawns movies like this, but I guess that's not quite the point here.
You may think differently. But perhaps we can agree on this: Pitt's performance is his best display of cool swagger since "Twelve Monkeys." I'd also like to congratulate his clothes designer (Michael Kaplan) for bedecking His Dudeness in wild, wacky colors that emphasize his alpha beauty. Norton's performance is also right on the money. He evolves from a hesitant office drone to the bloody-mouthed desperado at the center of this organized chaos. But I'm handing the golden glove to the visual troika of director Fincher and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, who made the intriguing "Seven," and production designer Alex ("The Crow") McDowell. They have turned "Fight Club" into a treat for sensation-addicted eyes and all those armchair bruisers in the audience who like to see their violence rendered in high-contrast reds in the coolest of settings.
FIGHT CLUB (R, 141 minutes) -- Contains brutal violence, nudity, obscenity and sex scenes. Area theaters.