Five: Sunday 23 August, 11.15pm
Insomniac insurance accident investigator Edward Norton becomes addicted to attending self-help therapy groups, a habit broken only after he meets cavalier anarchist Brad Pitt, a home-made soap salesman who’s similarly fed up with the plastic consumerism of the 1990s: “Why do guys like us know what a duvet is?” Together they form an illicit bare-knuckle boxing club which attracts increasing numbers of men who want to feel something, anything, even if it’s just the adrenalin rush of pain and combat. But Norton soon suspects that Pitt has a hidden agenda. David Fincher’s bravura satire takes place in a mean and moody twilight world that’s closer to the unidentified neighborhood of Se7en than to the sleek LA of The Game, though it’s more playful than either of his previous features. It’s also shockingly violent, which has blinded some to its mischievous and patently comic Magic Christian possibilities. Pitt and Norton are excellent as the cuss-and-thrust sparring partners, the one remorseless in his quest for Project Mayhem mischief, the other ambivalent in his awakening to anarchic masochism. Helena Bonham Carter is outstanding too, a spectral presence as the self-destructive female who flits in and out of their lives while obsessively attending cancer support groups: “It’s cheaper than a movie and the coffee’s free.” Fight Club is a brilliant conceit, sticking it to society at large while remaining focused on its enclosed world of madness and mayhem. Fincher’s direction is flashy but fluid, telling a chronically funny story of a profoundly lost generation with a wit and style noticeably absent in David Cronenberg’s torpid Crash. Like the best of Paul Verhoeven’s work (RoboCop, Starship Troopers), Fight Club works on many levels and demonstrates in painfully graphic ways that men, in particular, have evolved no further than John Osborne’s ranting Jimmy Porter, the angry young man who wanted ‘everything… nothing…’ Ending with the Pixies’ scary dirge, Where is My Mind, this savage film is as strange as a Stanley Kubrick comedy and as fearless as a Coen brothers farce. That’s how good it is.