In Fight Club young urban professionals are just empty, white-collar drones desperate to find meaning beyond cubicle walls. One (Norton) embarks on a deranged personal odyssey when he learns he can get an adrenaline rush by engaging in bare-knuckle brawls.
His mentor on this journey is Tyler Durden (Pitt), a philosophizing psychopath who denounces consumerism and individualism in favor of pain. A rebel, he splices pornographic images into family films, urinates in people's food and sells soap made in his kitchen from liposuctioned fat. He's also a budding terrorist.
The friends start Fight Club, a secret society of men who meet in the basement of a bar and beat each other to a pulp. It is described as a religious experience. "Homework" includes picking fights with strangers, vandalism, arson and leveling high-rises. Norton plays Jekyll to Pitt's evil Hyde. But in the end, we realize they're really just two sides of the same person.
The film is visually intriguing, but squanders any style points by fixating on diseased material. For nearly two and a half hours, Fight Club pummels audiences with brutal violence. There's explicit, callous sexuality. Nudity. Alcohol. Obscene language (over 60 f-words). But the greatest threat to young viewers may be its portrayal of self-inflicted pain as a worthy high.
Teen idol Pitt fights, blows things up, brands a man with acid and crashes into another car ... for thrills. Even putting a gun in one's mouth and pulling the trigger adopts a glamorous veneer. This dangerous Hollywood head trip could inspire similar machismo among distraught males convinced they have nothing to lose.