October 25, 1999 12:00 PM

Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter

Susan Faludi, you ain’t seen nothing yet. In her new book Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man (see page 143), the bestselling author writes that men have lost their sense of purpose in today’s society. Fight Club takes her thesis, multiplies it exponentially and drenches the result in blood. Based on a 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk and directed with flashy verve by David Fincher (Seven), this dark satire is a chaotic and often inchoate film bursting with smart-mouthed verbiage, stomach-turning violence and a murky political agenda that comes dangerously close to flirting with fascism.

Norton, the movie’s gen-X narrator, is a corporate dweeb spinning on the hamster wheel of conspicuous consumption. Pitt, a wild man who lives by his own rules, encourages Norton to question his IKEA-buying ways (“Why do guys like you and I know what a duvet is? It’s just a blanket,” lectures Pitt). Together, they found Fight Club, a secret order in which they and other nobodies pummel each other into bloody pulps. Only via physical domination can these guys find meaning in their lives. Can brownshirts be far behind?

Norton and Pitt throw themselves into this nasty brew with abandon but diminishing returns. (R)

Bottom Line: Bloody, but no knockout

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