American Psycho (2000)
Director: Mary Harron
Cast: Christian Bale, Chloë Sevigny,
Willem Dafoe, Samantha Mathis,  Bill Sage, Jared Leto
Novel: Bret Easton Ellis.

It’s the late 1980’s the “I’m all right Jack decade”, Manhattan.  Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), is a wall street stockbroker, obsessed with money, name labels, style, looks, sex and business cards as, to a lesser degree, are most of the rest of his high powered  associates.  He works out daily, consumes litre’s of Evian and is obsessed with sodium levels as well other things that enter his body (though he and his friends constantly indulge in cocaine binges).  His secretary, Jean (Chloë Sevigny) is in love with him and fawns over him.  His close friends and his girlfriend thinks he is stylish, happy, intelligent and “the boy next door”.  But Pat Bateman has a little secret that no one knows about.  Of an evening he likes to masturbate over violent scenes in horror films, and kill and dismember people with different implements, and in different ways.

Yup, Pat Bateman is a psycho.  He has an obsession with reading books about serial killers and cannibals like Ed Gein, Ted Bundy et al.  And on several occasions he uses quotes from these killers during his conversations.  Which leaves his friends stunned and unsure of him when he does.

With his chainsaw, knives and assorted power tools, Patrick goes about his bloody way dispatching homeless people, work mates, lovers and prostitutes, generally just about anyone he comes across is a candidate ready to be dispatched to that anthropophagi buffet in the sky.

After a little green eyed monster act over whom has the better business cards, Patrick goes about to send his associate Paul Allen (Jared Leto), who never gets his name right, to an early grave.  So after subjecting Paul to some inane drivel about a middle of the road pop band, Bateman dances over to him and proceeds to messily dispatch him with an axe.

Soon after Paul Allen’s disappearance is investigated by PI Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe), which starts Bateman on a downward spiral to total psychological disintegration.  Which leads to the ratio of his  killings being more frequent, until eventually he is pursued by the police, breaks down and confesses, in tears, to his lawyer.

Adapted from the long, 400 page, Bret Easton Ellis’s satirical novel.  The film is a leaner, faster and a lot easier to get through than the novel.  There is enough repetition of name labels of clothes and other products in the film to understand the obsession with surface and the fact that there is nothing that would outrage the characters more than the wrong wine with a meal, or a mismatched pair of shoes and trousers.  The novel seems to repeat this fetishisation of surface forever, almost to the point of brainwashing, and certainly past the point of boredom with yet another description of yet another person’s clothes.  The film is less explicitly violent, and has less sexually explicit content than the novel.

Narrated in the style of other psycho novels, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.  Bateman narrates the film from the start, claiming himself to be “emotionless and a non-entity” he has no identifiable personality traits distinguishable from those he works with, and he is constantly mistaken for others.  He has no lasting impact on new acquaintances, and nothing on the surface to make him stand out from the others.

Bateman has a constant tone and his conversation pieces run like quotes straight out of magazine reviews, there is no real emotional reaction to the things he is discussing and even seems to fake the emotion, outrage or ecstasy of the reviewer that he is quoting.  None of the opinions he expresses on music, cinema or anything for that matter are his own.  All expressed musical tastes are flat, middle of the road, and predictable.   He has no real personality to discover and choose his own music, and follows trends of music dictated to him by “popular” magazines.

All may not be, as it seems.  From the opening we are blasted with what would normally be a the film soundtrack, only to find out that we are privy to the music that is piped through Bateman’s walkman, as if we, were inside his head.   Bateman has a drug prescription, which is seen once; it has no description on the label, just his name, no dosage, no symptoms and no illness! These may be seen as a portent of what is to follow.

The obsession with business cards that Patrick and his associates have is the same as the obsession with mobile phones that the male youths have in Show Me Love, (1998).  Though why they all just do not whip out their penises and a measuring tape, since this is essentially what they are comparing through these replacements (it would also be less expensive) is beyond me.

Every cliché about serial killers seems to have made it into the film.  From body building to horror films, which is amusing but I am afraid will be seen otherwise when yet another group of people get around to using horror films and even this film as a scapegoat, for the reason for violence in our society.  It is a shame that Patrick is seen doing stomach crunches, emotionless, as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) plays on his video machine, and he is later on seen with a chainsaw, attempting to kill a prostitute.  I just hope that it is understood that this is exactly what Bateman would have done.  Having no personality of his own, the tools, which he would use for his murders, would be dictated to him the same way as his  music tastes.  That is a great point of the satire.  I believe some protest has already been made about the making of the film, and of the book, due to a crime somewhere in America.

Thank god that Leonardo DiCaprio changed his mind and bailed out of this project. As his presence would have totally ruined a good film.  In no way would he have been able to portray the misogynistic vain psycho anywhere near to the level that Christian Bale takes him to.  Christian knows the film is a satire and that the character he is playing is a complete dork.   He knows that the character is not going to get much sympathy.  He relishes the part and throws himself fully into it, making the scenes where Bateman is totally vain, staring at himself in the mirror while having sex with whores, as hilarious as the naked chainsaw chase.  What is more Bale throws himself into the role with total disregard for what a public or his fans are going to think, essentially not giving a rats ass and just playing a character that needs to be played to the hilt.

And shrink into your seat with fear and embarrassment all thee who have Patrick’s C.D. collection on your shelves.

Review By Giovanni Pistachio,
Giovanni can be contacted at: – 




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