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The mundane existence of a product liability evaluator and insomniac, who is addicted to self- help groups, is turned upside down when he meets a sado-masochistic anarchist who is secretly plotting to overthrow civilization. As their friendship grows, they become increasingly involved in a secret society of "fight clubs" where men act out their aggressions and violently beat one another to a pulp. In the meantime, the evaluator falls in love with a woman who is also addicted to self-help groups, but is unable to act on his desire for her.
For more about Fight Club and the Fight Club Blu-ray release, see the Fight Club Blu-ray Review
Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier, Jared Leto
Director: David Fincher
» See full cast & crew
Fight Club Blu-ray Review
"When the fight was over, nothing was solved, but nothing mattered."
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, November 16, 2009
In the decade that's elapsed since Fight Club first pummeled audiences and divided critics, many of the film's themes have remained remarkably pertinent. Despite a massive recession, consumer culture is still the driving force of the economy. We're still, as übermensch anti-hero Tyler Durden would put it, "the bi-products of a lifestyle obsession." Cognitively preprogrammed for brand awareness and mass acceptance of corporate advertising, we are our iPods, our hybrid cars, our trendy neighborhoods and 500 channels of high definition television. The rise and dispersion of so- called metro-sexuality has challenged and redefined traditional notions of masculinity. And, of course, the almost unfathomable events of September 11, 2001 have eerily echoed the film's explosive dénouement. As much as Fight Club is a cultural touchstone of late-1990s, pre- Y2K America, it's still as relevant as the morning paper, as potent as bull shark testosterone.
The films needs little introduction, but for those who might've spent the past ten years in a cave or holed up in some mountaintop monastery, I'll lay out the fundamentals. Based on a novel by shock-scribe Chuck Palahniuk (Choke) and directed by David Fincher (Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Fight Club is an existential thriller that examines the emasculated place of men—not mankind, but men—on the eve of the 21st century. When the film opens, our unnamed narrator—who occasionally refers to himself as Jack (Edward Norton)—has his mouth wrapped around the barrel of a pistol, the first of the film's many sexually suggestive symbols. At the other end of the gun is Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a man who has abandoned material pursuits and found himself enlightened by violence.
We flash back to the beginning. Jack—a stand-in name for our heroic Everyman—is a corporate numbers drone, a risk management assessor for a major automobile manufacturer. His life is defined by his Ikea-furnished lifestyle solutions, by his khakis, his dinner plates, by the monotony of his insomniac's existence. To combat his sleeplessness, he begins attending random support groups—for everything from testicular cancer to sickle cell anemia— where he meets Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), a "faker" who lives like she might die any moment. ("The tragedy, she says, is that she didn't.") After a massive explosion mysteriously destroys his condo, Jack moves in with Tyler Durden, the unfettered id to Jack's cautious super- ego. Tyler makes soap from liposuction fat—he "sells women their own fat asses"—and regularly expresses variations of the credo that "it's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything." Together, the two start the titular fight club, a place where men can go to strip themselves of societal expectations and, for a few bloody moments in the ring, experience true glory and self-worth. In time, Tyler recruits members of the club to be part of "Project Mayhem," a terrorist cell-cum-practical joke squad rooted in a kind of anarcho-fascist-nihilism. Obviously, this escalates way out of hand, and Jack has to confront both Tyler and his own fractured and conflicted thoughts about everything that's happening.
Early reviews of the film were polarized. Some critics championed Fight Club's breakneck visual acumen and dark-as-a-black-eye comedy. Others saw nothing funny in a post-MTV mishmash of styles that seemingly glorifies violence. Some praised the sharp-tongued verbal acuity of its script and the braveness of the film's no-holds-barred nihilism. And still others disparaged Tyler Durden's empty philosophizing as juvenile, a pop-neo-facism for violence-prone teens too immature to realize that, despite all the cool posturing and profound-sounding quips, Durden's solutions to the problems of modern masculinity are far more troubling than the problems themselves. Pro and con, all of these arguments hold up today, as the film has been blindly admired, dismissively vilified, and frequently misunderstood for a decade now. Take frat- boys, for example. Fight Club posters are—or were, when I was in college—almost as ubiquitous in dorm halls as spent beer bottles. One wonders…are the macho, fist-pumping, high- fiving hangers of these posters—who are, in essence, partly defining their identities through a professed admiration of Fight Club—aware, at all, of the film's latent homoeroticism? It's an apparent contradiction that I imagine provocateur Sasha Baron Cohen might have explored in some parallel-universe version of Brüno.
Whether you think Fight Club is the most stylish thriller of the 1990s or just a husk of pseudo-philosophy wrapped around an empty core—I'm somewhere in the middle—the film is undeniably well-produced. David Fincher evolves his visual style from The Game and Seven to form a gritty, industrial aesthetic, with stripped down colors and deconstructed set design. The cinematography is stylized and evocative, the camera movements assured and occasionally glitzy, but always in service of the film's wink-wink ironic detachment, and never to simply draw attention to itself. But the real highlight here is the acting. Edward Norton is alternately frazzled and incredulous; when he finally strips off his Oxford button-down and gets into the ring, he's like a man reborn. When he returns to work the next day, thoroughly disheveled, it's as if what was once a stuffed shirt, going through a humdrum routine, has been replaced by a walking smirk, a badass with unhindered self-confidence. Brad Pitt is simply unpredictable—you never know what he'll do next—and he handles his often viciously sarcastic dialogue with effortless cool. And Helena Bonham Carter, who can imagine her in a Merchant Ivory film after seeing Fight Club? Her Marla is the personification of wanton, uninhibited sex and belligerent neurosis. The script is tightly written, the editing is brisk and playful, and the action is brutal.
Is the violence condemned or condoned? Is it gratuitous or essential to the film's polemic? Ultimately, if Tyler Durden is the out-of-control id and Jack's former life represents the restraint of the socially conscious super-ego, then I think that we, the audience, must serve as the ego, finding the compromise between the dichotomies and arriving—ourselves—at whatever balance can be obtained between the emasculation of materialism and the skull-crushing, bone-breaking self-annihilation presented in Fight Club.
Fight Club Blu-ray, Video Quality
Fight Club has always had a distinct visual style, a dirty, bruised and beaten aesthetic, at once slick as wet blood and coarse as sandpaper. Those that like their high definition movies bright and clean—with artificial sharpening and all traces of grain digitally scrubbed to oblivion— won't know what to make of this release, with its dingy color scheme and obviously filmic look. But fans who like to see a director's intentions honored will be knocked silly by this fantastic 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, which proves to be an appreciable upgrade from prior DVD releases, especially when it comes to overall clarity and color depth. There are still a few soft shots—see Marla's confrontation with Jack at the cancer support group—but taken as a whole, Fight Club is sharp and defined. Close-ups display fine facial textures—particularly brutal when you're looking at Jared Leto's pulverized face—and longer shots are nicely resolved, allowing heretofore unseen detail. While truly bright, vivid colors are in the minority here—there are exceptions like Marla's blue shirt—the desaturated palette is filled with the greenish pallor of fluorescent lights, bronzed skin tones, and grimy, industrial grays. The colors, even if they're not "eye-popping," seem more weighty and intense this time around. Likewise, black levels are dense and deep, prompting a bit of intentional crush here and there, but generally giving the image a satisfying sense of presence. Contrast, as always, is slightly heightened and, at times, purposefully lurid. And grain is apparent throughout, in varying levels, giving the film an appropriately gritty patina. Aside from some minor contrast wavering in two or three scenes, I didn't detect any overt issues—no banding, blocking, haloing, jaggies, or artifacts. Whether or not the visual upgrade here warrants repurchasing the film on Blu-ray will depend on your own tastes and budget, but this is certainly the best Fight Club has ever and perhaps will ever look on home video.
Fight Club Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Rounding out the A/V package is an absolutely pulverizing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that will kick your home theater's ass and take its name. There are several demo-worthy showpieces here. Listen as Jack imagines a violent mid-air collision between two planes; steel rips through steel, sending shrapnel flying through the speakers with pin-point precision as wind whips terrifyingly through the rear channels. Or replay the scene when Tyler lets go of the steering wheel and allows the car to crash; metal twists and tears wrenchingly, screeching and grating from front to back as the car barrels towards the audience. And yet, these big audio moments are just the cherries on a sonic sundae. The sound design throughout the film is consistently engaging and immersive, delivering ear-shattering blows when called for and bringing quieter scenes to life with subtle, place-establishing ambience. Take, for instance, one of the cancer support group scenes. Pick out all the individual sounds. You'll hear the speaker drone through a microphone, her voice reverberating appropriately. You'll hear the members shift and shuffle quietly in their pews. Somewhere, in a distant room, children are running and playing. Outside, an ambulance passes by, the Doppler effect of its siren a grim portent. And this is just one example; nearly every scene is built upon a lively and convincing soundfield. While Edward Norton's voiceovers seem a bit quiet at times, dialogue is easily understood and reflects the acoustic qualities of the surroundings. Finally, if the big audio moments are the cherries on this sundae, the electronic score by The Dust Brothers is the chocolate sauce. The trip-hop spookiness and big beats sound a bit dated now, but the music is still bold and effective. I really can't drum up any complaints about this track; it's loud, aggressive, full-bodied, and thoroughly impressive.
Fight Club Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The bulk of the bonus features here are identical to those on the 2-disc special edition DVD, but there are few additions to sweeten the deal, including an interactive audio featurette, an acceptance speech at Spike TV's 2009 Guys Choice Awards, and a searchable index of commentary topics and in-movie references.
How many films arrive with four commentaries on a single disc? As owners of the 2-disc special edition DVD know, these tracks are a veritable treasure trove of arcane Fight Club knowledge, from making-of production details and on-set anecdotes to character analysis, script dissection, and directorial decision-making. David Fincher provides an excellent stand-alone track, and he's joined in the second commentary by Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter for even more lively discussion. Author Chuck Palahniuk and screenwriter Jim Uhls provide the perspectives of the film's progenitors for the third track, and the fourth is a collaborative effort from DP Jeff Cronenweth, Costume Designer Michael Kaplan, Production Designer Alex McDowell, Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Haug, and Visual Effects Editor Doc Bailey. All of the tracks are worth listening to, but the sheer amount of content can be overwhelming. Which leads us to:
Insomniac Mode: I am Jack's Search Index
Essentially, this mode has two functions. First up is a "topic search," which allows you to scroll through an index of people, places, and things referenced in both the movie and in the special features, from "Abraham Lincoln" to "Zach Grenier." Selecting one of these topics will take you to either the point in the film where it's referenced, or to the appropriate featurette in the special features. It's a neat inclusion, but I can't see myself using it, as I'm more likely to simply plow through the bonus features one after another. More useful, though, is the "commentary guide," which, when activated during the film, engages a pop-up menu that allows you to see, in "real time," what topics are being discussed in each of the four commentary tracks. This lets you switch at will between the commentaries and listen only to topics that interest you.
A Hit in the Ear: Ren Klyce and the Sound Design of Fight Club (1080p)
Sound designer Ren Klyce explains, in a brief intro to this interactive feature, how sound can "define a film's dramatic and psychological landscape." After viewing the introduction, you can select one of four scenes and remix the audio yourself, manipulating both the realistic and expressionistic audio elements that make up each scene. Basically, you can change the overall volume coming from each speaker of a 5.1 setup, as well as adjust the balance between the "real" sound effects and the more impressionist flourishes of sound design. It's not incredibly intuitive, but audiophiles may have fun tooling around here for a few minutes. It's self- explanatory, but you do need a 5.1 speaker arrangement to make full use of this feature.
Flogging Fight Club (1080i, 9:58)
Here, Mel Gibson rides in on a horse—wearing a Viking helmet—to bestow the Guy Movie Hall of Fame honor to Fight Club at Spike TV's 2009 Guys Choice Awards. We also get to see David Fincher, Brad Pitt, and Edward Norton prepping for their acceptance speech, which largely consists of bashing the critics who initially bashed the film.
Behind the Scenes Vignettes (SD)
The 16 or so behind-the-scenes clips here are divided into three sections: Production, Visual Effects, and On Location. With the exception of On Location, which is a stand-alone look at some of the film's props and choreography, the rest of the clips are somewhat cumbersomely arranged. First, you have to select a segment to view, and then select an angle and an audio track. You can also change the angles and audio tracks—there are one to three, tops, per clip—by pressing the respective buttons on your remote. To be honest, I would prefer one big, long production documentary.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (SD, approx. 16 min.)
There are seven severed or altered scenes, most of which were cut for pacing or trimmed of objectionable material.
Publicity Material (SD, approx. 30 min.)
Includes three trailers, 17 TV spots, 5 internet spots, 2 hilarious public service announcements, a music video, and the transcript of an interview with Edward Norton. There are also three self- playing galleries here, one each for lobby cards, press kit materials, and stills.
Art Gallery (1080p, approx. 30 min.)
Here you'll find high definition, self-playing galleries of visual effects stills, photos of the Paper Street house, costumes and makeup, pre-production paintings, the "brain ride" map, and all of the storyboards for the film.
Fight Club Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The question always arises, in cases like this, of whether it's worth it to upgrade from the DVD release of a catalog title. In the case of Fight Club, I'd say yes, with few reservations. There's not much in the way of new supplementary material, but with a visual boost in clarity and a sonic pummeling—courtesy of a lossless audio track—this Blu-ray release of Fight Club is a heavy hitter, and a must-have for fans. Highly recommended.
Fight Club Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - November 17th - November 17, 2009
When George Lucas announced that he would be directing three new Star Wars films, fans young and old built a level of anticipation not seen since the original trilogy first graced theater screens - at least until they met Jar Jar. So when Paramount announced ...
• Buy Fight Club and Boondock Saints, Save $5 - November 17, 2009
For a limited time, if you buy the just-released Blu-ray of 'Fight Club' at Amazon together with the BD of 'The Boondock Saints', you will get an additional $5 off at checkout, making the total $23.48 for the two movies at the time of writing. There is no information ...
• Fox Holds Free Fight Club Screening in NY and LA - November 16, 2009
To celebrate the Blu-ray release of 'Fight Club: 10th Anniversary Edition' tomorrow, 20th Century Fox is holding free midnight screenings of the film in both New York and in Los Angeles. To attend, fans should head over to either www.ProjectMayhemNY.com or ...
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Fight Club Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
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