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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Fight Club is the 1999 movie based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel in which Edward Norton plays an insomniac office worker who meets his masculine ideal opposite with whom he begins to get in touch with his primal self as well as a desire to sabotage consumer culture. Impressionable kids and teens are likely to miss the dark satire while witnessing numerous examples of graphic beatings, vandalism, shootings, and bombings. The overall cloud of nihilism permeating this movie, the lead character's attempts to place subliminal one-frame shots of pornography in family movies in a theater where he works as a projectionist, scenes in which characters who work in restaurants urinate in food, a scene in which the female lead, after engaging in loud and passionate sex, says, "I haven't been f--ked like that since grade school," as well as the aforementioned graphic violence, make this best for audiences mature enough to see the film's deeper messages on the ways in which consumer culture warps our individuality and self esteem. There's also frequent profanity, nudity, smoking, and drinking.
Fight Club is a fantastic movie, but extremely brutal and it has some very mature themes. There are some reviews here putting this movie at 12 or 13 plus, which I think is ridiculous and concerning; this movie is far too explicit for such an age group.
The fighting in this movie isn’t like what you’d find in something like Karate Kid; it’s far more graphic and intense. There’s drinking and a couple of quick sex scenes, but the main concerns are the ideas presented in this movie; young audiences may interpret them as anti-capitalist messages (which they are to a certain degree ) and some other reviews I’ve read from younger viewers show that it has indeed been misinterpreted. Commonsense Media’s review on this I think is fairly accurate.
Fight Club is an extraordinary, beatific film about consumerism, violence, greed, mental health, sex and material obsession, this on it’s own makes the movie incomprehensible for younger audiences, despite the film having some scenes of savagely brutal violence, language and sex.
The opening scene depicts a man with a gun in his mouth, this scene continues later into the film.
Scenes in the Fight Club are rather brutal, intense and violent, however none of the scenes last to long and none are gratuitous. These scenes are loud, sudden and savage, violence includes men slammed onto the floor, repeatedly punched, men have their heads and faces bashed into the floor, 2 scenes are more gratuitous and disturbing then the rest, the first shows a man getting repeatedly punched as he laughed manically as blood covers and soaks his face, after he is beaten for a rather extended period, he lunges on his attacker, face bloody and thrashes his head around, screaming violently causing blood to splash on the attackers head as the man screams “you don’t know where I’ve been” in an attempt to disgust him with his bodily fluids, sweat and blood. A man vomits and the frightened man runs away. The 2nd depicts a man being beaten in the face to a bloody pulp, this scene is quite short, but he is repeatedly beaten until his face his soaked in blood and deformed. The injuries and impact are only shown briefly, as the scene was cut down to escape an NC-17 rating. The man is shown deformed later. All scenes in the Fight Club are done fast, but are very sudden and contain strong injury detail, blood and disturbing content.
Scenes outside of the Fight Club can also get pretty graphic, however this are much more sparing. These scenes depict lots of domestic terrorism (exploding shop buildings, breaking cars, spiking the roads, breaking public property and eventually exploding multiple buildings) and beatings. One scene shows a man punching himself in the face over and over again in order to frame his boss, he bashed in his own face until blood pours everywhere, then jumps into glass (bloody cuts shown) then crawls towards him soaked in blood (somehow comedic), another scene shows a man shot in the back of the head, which is bloodless at first but when his mask is removed a very large amount of blood and brain spills out, and a giant gaping hole is shown in his head, very briefly. 2 men get into a fight, but this is actually just the one man punching himself in the face, pretty non-graphic. Two men punch each other playfully at the beginning, an apartment explodes (non-fatally) and in one particular nail-biting scene, a mans arm is burnt with acid, and he is forced to watch as his skin burns off. Close up shots are shown, very intense. Another scene shows a man shooting himself in the mouth, this is very stylized and the bullet only fly’s through the back of his cheek, so he survives, but this ends up blowing a hole into another mans head who falls dead. Blood is shown from the mans cheek, but he survives and shows no pain.
Violence doesn’t appear until the 30 minute mark in the movie.
SPOILER SECTION - WARNING - SKIP PAST IF NOT INTERESTED:
This film shows very disturbing anti-social behaviors, as it is revealed at the very end that one of the main characters does not exist. That reveals that the acid scene and some of the fighting and terrorism scenes where done all alone, revealing that he, in fact has been torturing himself, and that he has been living alone in an abandoned house making bombs for terrorism.
-END OF SPOILER SECTION-
Around 80 uses of “f*ck”, 12+ uses of “sh*t”, 1 use of “c*ck”, several uses of “t*ts”, “b*tch”, “a**” and “balls”, infrequent use of “damn” and “hell”.
The stronger language doesn’t start until the first 30 minutes of the movie.
Profanity is relevant, however if your viewer is desensitized at school, home or anywhere it should be okay as it doesn’t appear very pervasive.
SEXUAL CONTENT: MODERATE
Most sexual activity happens within the first half of the movie, but the film does include 2 sex scenes, one being slightly long and the second being extremely brief. The first depicts a man and a woman having sex in blurry, shaking camera angles, full nudity is shown from the buttocks to breasts and loud moaning can be heard, however no sexual movements are shown (the shots are pretty still) and the nudity/sexual images are hard to make out. The second is less than 2 seconds, and shows a blink and you’ll miss it shot of a man humping a woman in bed, no nudity or graphic images. The rest of the sexual content is more graphic than any of the sex scenes.
A man is known to edit splices of pornography into children’s films, a quick image of a penis is shown as he is preparing the film, along with a few images of a man and a woman having sex, breasts shown, a man can be slightly shown next/on her. We hear a moan in the theater and kids start crying. Very comedic scene.
It is references that a man urinates and ejaculates into food at a restaurant, however this joke will fly over kids heads, “and as for the cream of mushroom soup, well…”
A dildo is shown on a woman’s cupboard, the man who walks in bumps the desk and it jiggles.
Sexual moaning and loud banging is heard throughout a house after a man hooks up with her, it is heard for a very long time, as the protagonist uses the bathroom, roams around, etc. and at one point he walks by the door and it opens, we see a glimpse of movement inside before the man having sex opens the door, fully nude (no genitals shown) and asks if the narrator wants to “finish her off” the woman is shown on the bed and falls off comedically.
Sexual jokes and dialogue, a woman grabs a mans crotch, joke about dildos, etc.
A penis quickly flashes on the screen before the end credits, making a joke about how how the man splices the images of penises into movies.
DRUG CONTENT: MILD
Drinking, smoking, a woman is on the verge of overdosing on Xanax, pill bottles are shown, etc.
OVERALL: 15+ for some savagely violent fights and related bloody images, disturbing anti-social behavior, language, sexuality and some graphic nudity.
Ed Norton's central character is nameless (Closed-Captioning and DVD menus call him either Jack or Rupert), a bored office worker suffering from alienation-induced insomnia. He can only sleep after attending anonymous support groups for alcoholics and cancer victims, although he is neither. That option disappears when he finds a hostile woman, Marla (Helena Bonham-Carter) doing the same thing, for kicks and free food. He meets a charismatic soap salesman and part-time movie projectionist named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), with more extreme coping solutions for modern life. The duo forms a "fight club," beating each other for the primal thrill. The notion attracts other bored young men, and soon a number of secret Fight Clubs pummel themselves throughout the city. For Tyler, though, it's only the beginning of something he calls "Project Mayhem," orchestrated sabotage to overthrow the consumerist society. He's already been conducting his campaign on a small scale by splicing subliminal frames of pornography into family movies. Now, using Fight Club as an underground army, he spearheads bombings and monkey-wrenchings against The System. Rupert (or Jack, or whoever) watches Tyler's progress with alarm, as his own condo explodes and police link him to the attacks. Worse, Marla resurfaces, and a dangerous love triangle forms between her, the Ed Norton character, and Tyler. We already know from the film's dynamic opening that Tyler will end up holding a gun on his former friend, and the storyline is a flashback. Not necessarily a reliable flashback, though, and Fight Club has a celebrated Sixth Sense-style plot surprise that demands the viewer rethink all that's come before.
Is It Any Good?
Even without the whiplash revelation, the film is a wild ride. Among its many inside jokes and eccentricities, the filmmakers, in imitation of Tyler, stuck single-frame subliminal nude photos into the feature. Not-so-subliminal are incidents of extreme violence, as Fight Club members hold nothing back (and wear no boxing gloves), and a sex scene with Marla that's no less intense for being mostly CGI.
FIGHT CLUB derives from a novel by trendy author Chuck Palahniuk, whose book actually has a stranger, more downbeat ending than the movie. You wouldn't want kids to use either as a blueprint for behavior (at least the filmmakers made certain that the bomb-making recipes in the script are ineffective). Unlike Brazil, another striking cult picture that advocates terrorism against dehumanizing forces, Fight Club at least claims to take place in the real world. We can only recommend it for older teenagers who recognize it as more of a punk satire than a real call to arms.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the cynicism and anarchy shown here. What pushes the main characters to behave that way? Why do the narrator and Marla have a fascination with self-help groups? How are the extremely flawed characters here somehow likeable?
What would be the challenges in adapting a novel like Fight Club into a movie?
This movie, with its acts of vandalism and terrorism, was released two years before the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Could a movie like this be made after 9/11? Should a movie like this be made after 9/11? Does the film's style and message seem relevant to today or dated?