Steeped in controversy and mired in production for years, American Psycho tells the story of Anybroker Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), a highest-society late 1980s Wall Street investment banker with a penchant for murder and a bloodlust that doesn't quit. Think of it as a portrait of Gordon Gecko as a young, homicidal man.
With knives, axes, guns (bullet and nail), and/or chainsaw, Bateman hacks up homeless people, hookers, and even a few of his friends, especially if they talk nasty about him behind his back. Between bouts of rough sex, a rigorous shower and exercise routine, drinks and dinners with friends and dates, and listening to his favorite music (Huey Lewis, Phil Collins, and Whitney Houston), it's surprising that Bateman actually has time to get to work.
And murder's just not enough for Bateman. He's engaged to Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon) but is boning her sister (Samantha Mathis) and a whole lot of whores, to boot. Everyone but his assistant (Chloë Sevigny) is getting a piece of the action. Not that you'd want any, because most everyone who visits Patrick's apartment ends up in the fridge.
American Psycho has the tendency to be a character in search of a plot, as was the case with the novel, but director Mary Harron has infused Bret Easton Ellis's tale with so much twisted and neo-farcical psychosis that she's really turned a rambling psychothriller novel tinged with comedy into a ribald satire tinged with thrills. The murders in American Psycho aren't particularly gruesome, it's the glee with which Bateman carries them out that makes him a true villain. Even the novel's most gruesome killing (which I won't detail here, but which involves a bound woman, a starving rat, and a Habitrail) has been cut from the film.
As for Bale, well, I think we've just witnessed the defining moment of his career: the role for which he will forever be compared to. (Think Leonardo DiCaprio (who was rumored to be taking this part at one time) in Titanic.) He certainly plays Bateman to a T, even if the dialogue he's been given is a bit flat.
Harron has often described this film as a work of feminism. I don't know about that. It's scattered and often random (like the novel) and any female point of view was lost on me. No matter. American Psycho vibrates between being deliriously funny and just plain delirious. And for some reason, it made me really want to work on my abs.
The (original) DVD is a solid disc, but it's lacking any extras -- notably a commentary track or any other mention of American Psycho's alternative interpretation -- that it was all a dream. Ultimately, of course, it's up to the viewer to decide what to make of it, but Harron's opinion would have been a welcome addition.
This weakness is addressed on the new Collector's Edition disc, which does offer commentary from harron and co-writer Guinevere Turner, deleted scenes, and a couple of documentary featurettes. The film itself is branded as "uncut," which is manifest mostly in slightly more explicit sex scenes (though the violence is largely unchanged).
Run time: 102 mins
In Theaters: Friday 14th April 2000
Box Office Worldwide: $34.3M
Distributed by: Lions Gate Films
Production compaines: Lions Gate
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 95 Rotten: 47
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: Mary Harron
Starring: Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, Reese Witherspoon as Evelyn Williams, Justin Theroux as Timothy Bryce, Josh Lucas as Craig McDermott, Bill Sage as David Van Patten, Chloë Sevigny as Jean, Samantha Mathis as Courtney Rawlinson, Matt Ross as Luis Carruthers, Jared Leto as Paul Allen, Willem Dafoe as Det. Donald Kimball, Cara Seymour as Christie, Guinevere Turner as Elizabeth, Stephen Bogaert as Harold Carnes, Monika Meier as Daisy, Krista Sutton as Sabrina
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