This is not an action movie, but a cerebral comedy - which is to say, an ideas movie. Some of those ideas are startling, provocative, transgressive, even subversive. They're also pretty funny. It goes like this: Norton used to be an upwardly mobile urban professional; now, he's pallid, neurotic and unhappy. Then he bumps into Tyler Durden (Pitt), his apartment blows up, and everything changes. Gaudy and amoral, Tyler's an id kind of guy: living on the edge is the only way he knows to feel alive. Pitt's raw physical grace embodies everything his alter ego has lost touch with; they trade body blows for fun, and you can sense the gain in the pain. Their 'club' draws emasculates from across the city; under Tyler's subtle guidance, the group evolves into an anarchist movement. The film wobbles alarmingly at this point, then rallies for the kind of coup de grâce that sends you reeling. Jim Uhls' cold, clever screenplay, from Chuck Palahniuk's novel, is a millennial mantra of seditious agit prop. Shot in a convulsive, stream-of-unconsciousness style, with disruptive subliminals, freeze frames and fantasy cutaways, the film does everything short of rattling your seat to get a reaction. You can call that irresponsible. Or you can call it the only essential Hollywood film of 1999.
Cast and crew
Brad Pitt Helena Bonham Carter Edward Norton Zach Grenier Jared Leto Richmond Arquette Meat Loaf Aday