Fight Club Or Project Durden

Ash Isaac

Man. In crisis. Endangered. At risk. Times are tough for the modern day man. Everywhere you look you see men substitutes and replacements. No longer required to decipher maps, (thanks GPS), vote (thanks suffragettes) or even fulfil the basic hunter gatherer functions, (thanks progress). You can even buy a man shaped pillow/water bottle to cuddle up to on those lonely winter nights. They’re very soothing, (so I’m told).

Fight Club is a dark, visceral, testosterone fuelled throw back of a film that harks back to those halcyon days when the only tool you needed was a big knobbly club, the only clothing required was the skin of an animal you had killed whilst using aforementioned club, and the only relationships you needed were arranged by judicious use of aforementioned club. Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s provocative polemic of the same name, Fight Club delivers a heady shot of machismo and mayhem to today’s disenfranchised, neurotic men-children.

Edward Norton has a problem. He can’t sleep. To try and alleviate his insomnia he visits support groups for cancer victims in the hope that by vicariously sharing their pain he will feel better about his own life and finally get some sleep. The support groups warmly embrace him into their bosom, literally in the case of a man-boobed Meatloaf popping up in one of his rare acting roles. No one suspects that Norton is otherwise healthy and merely faking it to satisfy his own selfish needs. He meets another schadenfreude seeker in the form of Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) who has temporarily managed to extricate herself from the clutches of Tim Burton to star in a film he isn’t directing.

So far, so morbid. Things start to take on a more dynamic course when Norton runs into Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) a mysterious travelling soap salesman, (yes really). After their initial brief encounter Norton returns home to find his flat has been blown up showering the surrounding area with the vaporised remains of his orderly and effete life. He meets up with Tyler and after a few pints of beer they decide to duke it out in an empty car lot.

Thus the infamous Fight Club of the title is born and soon enough swathes of bored, curious, disengaged and psychotic men have signed up and are cheerfully beating seven bells out of each other. Nothing says ‘Yes’ to life quite like blood, bone and gristle on your knuckles. Just when you think the knockabout violence and sweaty male bonding is the culmination of the film’s message, then Durden cranks up the chaos and goes into full anti-establishment mode.

The Fight Club followers graduate to urban terrorism and acts of civil disobedience much to the horror of Norton who realises that the niche group he helped co-found has now spun wildly out of control. Not content with small time acts of vandalism and destruction of property, Durden schemes to blow up several financial organisations in an attempt to bring down what he considers to be the whole rotten order of things. In a frantic finale containing arguably one of the best and worst twists in cinematic history, Norton is able to reunite with Singer, but not before emphatically failing to stop Durden carry through his plan to bring the world to its soft, slippery knees.

Fight Club is cool, not as cool as it thinks it is, but nonetheless a welcome antidote to films about “snooty cats and heroic dogs”. It contains just the right mix of nihilism, narcissism, anti-consumerism and anarchy although by the end you have to remind yourself that the protagonists are essentially advocating the total breakdown of society as we know it.

In a world where the iPad has replaced the big knobbly club, and where intelligent conversation has replaced grunting, then the dissolution of civilisation seems like a bad if somewhat romantic idea. Almost fifteen years after its original release, Fight Club remains a shrill primal scream. It is the cinematic equivalent of downloading, printing off and assembling your own 3D printed gun… and then accidentally shooting yourself in the foot with it.

About Ash Isaac

I am a contributor of questionable taste, origin and talent. My one claim to fame is that I was born in the same hospital as Cliff Richard. I am still in possession of my soul unlike Sir Cliff who sold his to Samael the Desolate in return for eternal youth and the friendship of Sue Barker.