American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)

I watched this film many years ago and remembered it well enough to rate it highly on facebook – but after the recent watch I have had I must stabilise that rating as it really is a fascinating film – primarily as good as it is due to Christian Bale. His performance is remarkable, making you sit awkwardly for the entire 93 minutes of the film. I am always expecting him to suddenly explode – the commercial and materialistic environment eating away at him the entire time. On this second watch I also became a lot more aware of how beautiful Andrzej Sekula’s cinematography is. At the same time this film was released American Beauty (D.O.P Conrad L. Hall) showed an equally stale and, in offices, even clinical environment. Even Bateman’s (Bale) flat was clean and white – akin to a patients room in a mental unit and this makes the film that much sinister.

Its worth noting that Bateman is aware of his insanity – if anything, he is amazed that no-one seems to care. The first act shows Bateman calling after a waitress stating how he would like to twiddle his fingers in her blood – but no-one seems to notice or care. It is set in the 80’s, so i would assume this superficial and materialistic context is what creates these drone-like human characters that surround Bateman. Only “Kristy” – a prostitute used and abused – seems to have an interesting personality emerging in the two sequences she is in. The set-up is ‘Patrick Bateman is clearly a psychopath and kills tramps and probably others’ … only when he kills Paul Allen (Leto) and this is followed up by a detective (Dafoe) do we begin to understand where the story will probably go and – even though the case is what keeps us watching – as he brandishes a chainsaw to kill a victim, we realise that it is his mounting insanity and homicidal tendencies that is the problem. This, in turn, leads to a huge shoot-out finale and a confession that concludes the last act. How this plays a part to the end is what makes the film somewhat unique.

[Spoiler now…]
He finds out that nobody really knows who anybody else is, he finds that the apartment whereby he killed most his victims has been repainted and sold on – with only a strange woman who neither shows knowledge of ignorance of what happened in the flat. Did she know? Has it been covered up? Has Allen’s family assumed he was the killer and simply hidden everything? All these possibilities are unimportant – the fact is, all the politics and economic factors override the truth: that Bateman is a free man and, because of the lack of personality and unnamed people, he can do, pretty much, what he wants in such a corrupt society. Most people Bateman knows also feels that he is a “dork” – even though we see a much more eccentric character – clearly he does not project such a clever or intelligent image as no-one really knows him at all. I have heard that the misunderstanding of names is a huge factor in Bret Easton Ellis’ novel and so this factor in the finale is an important one.

I cannot praise this film enough and I think the next thing I need to do is buy the soundtrack: Huey Lewis and the News, Phil Collins … all good stuff! I’m sure it was ¬£3 in Fopp last time I checked. One thing which I shall never buy, watch or touch is the DVD of American Psycho 2 starring regular sequel-child Robin Dunne. Plonker. Cruel Intentions 2, The Skulls 2, Species 3 … my god.

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4 comments

  1. Again this is short because (shock, horror) I agree with you. It's a classic- funny, horrific, clever and I'm increasingly drawn to the genius of Christian Bale (despite some weird film choices…) However Reece Witherspoon is shit. In everything. Just covered in shit.

    Final things, the ending is brilliant and the book is even more unpleasant. Which is nice.

  2. Yeah I completely agree with you on this as well, still one of my favourite films. Glad you mentioned Brett Easton Ellis' novel too, I read it quite a while after this (as well as the fantastic 'Lunar Park' which features a cameo from Bateman – why haven't they made a film of that one yet?!?) and it's one of the few film adaptations that are as good as the book. I can't think of Christian Bale doing anymore films where he's as good as he is here, with him going all Hollywood being Batman, John Connor etc. And what a soundtrack – I've never heard such an emotional tribute to the music of Phil Collins!

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