Horror/Black Comedy

American Psycho

Distributed By: Lionsgate

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                I was discussing various movies and actors with a co-worker and we happened on the subject of Christian Bale and his movie The Machinist.  I felt that the movie was brilliant and marveled at how far Bale was willing to go to get the part right.  My co-worker asked if I had seen him in American Psycho and was amazed when I replied in the negative.  "You have to see him in this movie!" he said.  Well, with Halloween almost here, why not check out an older film about a psychotic serial killer.

                In the film, Christian Bale is Patrick Bateman, an investment banker who hates his job and his fiancée (Reese Witherspoon).  The movie is set in the '80s, at a time when the film Wall Street was popular and the idea that "greed is good" was the norm.  Everyone in Patrick's world does everything to the excess, including drugs, sex, partying and living.  Patrick does his best to fit in, creating a very strict regiment for himself to maintain his looks and physique, and copying everyone in his office.  He does such a good job copying the co-workers that he is often mistaken for them.

                His friends adore him, his fiancée pushes him to set a date for a marriage and his secretary (Chloë Sevigny) is secretly in love with him.  But hidden under the beautiful exterior is a raging psychopath longing to put everyone out of his misery.  He feels a need to hurt others and his good looks are a tool to lure unsuspecting prey into his lair, where he designs different, and often brutal, ways of killing his victims, often in the midst of intellectual discussions about popular music.

                As the film moves forward, Patrick's murderous activities become more deranged and fantastic and we begin to wonder if the murders he commits are real or something that is happening within his psychotic mind, especially during the numerous times he confesses to his crimes.  The people he confesses to don't seem to actually hear his confessions, or simply ignore them as jokes.  In fact, during one scene with Patrick and his fiancée in an upscale restaurant, Patrick draws a picture of the chainsaw murder of a prostitute on the tablecloth in crayon and his fiancée never seems to notice.  It's as if the picture is not even there and, given the fact that this is an upscale restaurant, where would Patrick have gotten the crayons to draw it anyway?

                At first, I was thinking, "Why did everyone think that American Psycho was such a good movie?"  A black comedy containing quite a few big name actors, like Bale, Witherspoon, Sevigny, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Willem Dafoe (All I kept wondering every time he appeared was why he was never approached to play The Joker.  He just looks so much the part without any makeup whatsoever!), Samantha Mathis and more, I really found the acting to be subpar in the beginning.  But as we delved more into the psychotic mind of Patrick Bateman...if that's his real name...we start to realize that Bale is an incredible actor portraying the psychosis of his character to the letter.  A method actor, Bale probably studied up on his characters psychological issues before attempting this role and it definitely shows.  We actually forget that Bale is an actor and believe that he is a psychotic killer who needs to kill more and more...or at least fantasize about large kills...to get his fix in life.

                Although I experienced mixed impressions about the film itself, there is no such mixed impression of American Psycho's soundtrack, which is simply awesome if you're a fan of '80s music.  Containing artists like Phil Collins, The Cure, New Order, Information Society, Huey Lewis and the News and more, the movie contained some of the great party songs and love songs of the time: What's On Your Mind, Hip to Be Square, The Greatest Love of All (an instrumental version as Whitney Houston was not keen on her version of the song being used in this film), In Too Deep, Pump Up the Volume and more.

                With the exception of the possibility that the bloody and truly psychotic murders the main character is committing while looking like a well-dressed entrepreneur may in fact be figments of his deluded imagination, I found American Psycho to be somewhat of a disappointment.  Christian Bale is great in his role, but I just really couldn't see how this film has become a cult favorite.  I was happy about the psychotic twist and the fact that the movie was only an hour an forty minutes long.  Other than that, I could have passed on it altogether.


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