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Thursday, October 23, 2008 

360°: The Law of Karma

Edward Norton's Cinematic Comeuppance
What goes around comes around...even in the movies.

The cult of FIGHT CLUB fanboys is so overwhelming I'm tempted to hate this movie. But I can't. Because before the world-at-large saw it, before every ineffectual cubicle-dwelling weakling who felt as though they didn't have a voice until FIGHT CLUB came along and spoke for them got their hands on it, this movie was all mine. Having been one of the few people who actually read the novel by Chuck Palahniuk BEFORE the movie had even been optioned, I felt I had the right to claim it as such. When I found out Edward Norton (who I had been following almost obsessively at this point in his career after seeing PRIMAL FEAR, reading about every little thing he did, from what card sharks he hung out with and learned from researching his role in ROUNDERS the year before to the beef he had with director Tony Kaye over the final cut of AMERICAN HISTORY X) had signed on and so had Brad Pitt, I lived, breathed and slept this movie from the planning stages to principle photography until the day it wrapped and finally got shipped to theaters.

Anyway, if you've seen the movie, you should be familiar with this scene. The Narrator (Ed Norton) who was once Tyler Durden's prized pupil and best friend, let's the green-eyed monster get the best of him when he sees Tyler slowly start to favor a blonde pretty boy-type, "Angel Face" (Jared Leto), a young up and comer in Tyler's latest invention, Project Mayhem. The Narrator doesn't confront Angel Face right away. No. He stews silently and waits for his opportunity to handle it mano y mano, in Lou's basement, on the blood-splattered cardboard where "fight club" goes down. And he destroys Angel's Face. What's the word they used in PREDATOR? Oh yeah -- FUBAR. Leto, for the rest of the movie, is Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. His dashing good looks intact, The Narrator reclaims his place at his mentor's side...which ironically, if you know this movie's "surprise" twist, wasn't ever really in jeopardy to begin with.

FIGHT CLUB (1999) dir. David Fincher

Here's a line that didn't make it into the movie: "Getting God's attention for being bad was better than getting no attention at all. Maybe because God's hate is better than His indifference."

Unlike FIGHT CLUB, I can't lay claim to having already read David Benioff's novel, The 25th Hour, before seeing this. But while it may not go down in movie history as anything special or even providing any standout moments, I'm a fan of 25TH HOUR because I just happen to dig a day-in-the-life movies of this nature. And that's exactly what this is: the last full day of freedom that drug dealer Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) will experience before he has to head to prison to pull a seven-year stretch for a crime that he's still in the process of unravelling the mystery of how he got pinched in the first place.

Of course, Monty does what every guy in his soon-to-be state-issued shoes would do: he goes to a party at a nightclub being thrown for him by the very people who got him sent up to begin with, brings along the girlfriend he suspects of possibly setting him up (Rosario Dawson), his two lifelong boyhood pals (Barry Pepper, Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and an underaged high school student (Anna Paquin). When the night is over, fearing he may be a little Right Said Fred for prison i.e. too sexy for his future cellmates, he asks his friend Frank (Pepper) for a final favor: to beat him up; make him ugly to buy himself some time and keep the daily anal rapings to a minimum, at least at first, until he can heal. Of course, inititally Frank refuses but Monty knows just what to say and do to get under his skin until finally Frank is left no choice. And thus, the ass-whupping that Norton doled out in FIGHT CLUB finally, three long years later, comes back to bite him in the fat, fleshy part of his rear right here. Observe:

25TH HOUR (2002) dir. Spike Lee

That's for those years you stole Salma Hayek from me, you smug bastard.

I will never EVER forgive you, prick.