It begins with a journey through a man's brain. It ends with a city collapsing to the accompaniment of The Pixies. In between times, David Fincher's Fight Club visits unchartered parts of the human mind and the American underworld. Planes and apartments blow-up, men beat one another senseless, a man quits his job, soap gets made - yes, all human life is here.
Adapted from the cult novel by Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club is different things to different people. What it isn't is a movie that deserved to flop massively on its original release - budgeted at $67 million, it took under $40 million at the US box office. How ironic that a film with an anti-globalisation message should have proved so difficult to market.
Our Narrator (Norton) is an unhappy soul. Stuck in a lucrative but dull job, his unsatisfying consumerist lifestyle has left him unable to sleep. Briefly finding comfort by attending victim support groups, his bliss is shattered by Ms Marla Singer (Bonham Carter), a ball-busting free-spirit. Trapped once again, the Narrator finds fresh hope in the form of Tyler Durden (Pitt), a good-looking, charismatic man who even has answers to the most difficult questions. How do you get ahead of the consumer game? You don't play it. How do you stop being crushed by your employment ambitions? Don't have any. How do you rid yourself of frustration? You join Fight Club.
A picture overloaded with dark comedy, disturbing imagery and intense assaults (the fist fights are as nothing compared to the beatings handed out at Ikea and Starbucks), Fight Club is so brain-melting that watching it more than once is a necessity. Take the character of Marla (Bonham Carter's greatest performance): the woman who comes on like a barmy devil on the first screening seems more like an angel second time around.
Although it has the good grace not to answer the myriad questions it asks, Fight Club does clear up a range of issues. Is Edward Norton one of the greatest actors of his generation? Absolutely. Can Brad Pitt step up to the plate come the big occasion? But of course. Did David Fincher get lucky with Se7en? Not a bit of it.
Given that it is a picture about cruel irony, it's amusing that something as cash-brutal as the film industry could spawn so anti-corporate a movie as Fight Club. Some might argue that the reason Fox backed the film was due to the fact that, under the surface, Fincher's film is far less brutal than it first appears. But as repeat viewings attest, continued exposure to Fight Club only enhances your admiration for both the movie and its message. In no way a secret endorsement of the system, this is a film that leaves your third eye squeegeed clean so that you can face a brave new world.