There are generally only two possible opinions one can form of a movie like
Mary Harron's ("I Shot Andy Warhol") "American Psycho". You may walk out of
this movie thinking it is a horrid, disgusting piece of garbage which should
never have been committed to film; or you'll believe, as I do, that this is
a brilliant black comedy the likes of which has not been seen in quite some
time. This may also be the breakout role for Christian Bale ("A Midsummer
Night's Dream"), an actor who displays some amazing, Oscar worthy talent in
this movie. Alternatingly uproariously funny and shockingly violent, this is
the kind of movie which will stay in your mind for days afterwards. I'll
warn you right now, if you don't like your humor black as pitch stay far
away from this movie.
It's the mid 1980's and the yuppie era is in full swing. Patrick Bateman
(Christian Bale) is one of these yuppies who spends his time worrying about
whether he'll get a good table at the best restaurant and how expensive his
apartment is compared to his friends'. He is engaged to Evelyn Williams
(Reese Witherspoon), who he is cheating on with Courtney Rawlinson (Samantha
Mathis), the fiancee of the irritating Lewis Carruthers (Matt Ross). It may
sound like a normal, if slightly soap opera like lifestyle, but Patrick
explains to us in occasional narrative voice-overs that he isn't actually a
regular human. He may have the appearance of a human, and he may follow the
morning and evening routines of your average, everyday person, but he is
really a cold blooded killer. Bateman isn't sure why he does what he does,
but his urge for blood and violence is growing stronger and stronger each
The film may start off looking more like a straight out comedy than a
combination comedy and slasher film, but don't let that fool you. When
things turn violent it is sudden and rather shocking. Yet despite what you
may have heard, "American Psycho" is not an incredibly violent movie. Nearly
all the slaughter and mayhem takes place off screen or in the dark. This
doesn't mean this is a movie for young audiences. We do see the aftermath of
many of Bateman's violent acts, and there are enough sex scenes that this
could easily have earned an NC-17 rating. Mary Harron does an excellent job
of not focusing entirely on the violent acts, but more on the atmosphere
surrounding Bateman and his victims. The atmosphere consists of everything
being filmed in either dark colors or stale whites with weak lighting. This
gives the film an eerie, other worldly feel to it.
I'm sorry this movie was released so early in the year because Academy
members will almost certainly forget about Christian Bale's amazing
performance come Oscar time. Bale manages to make Bateman inhumanly cold and
calculating without turning the character into another typical movie psycho.
Reese Witherspoon ("Election"), a very talented actress, is unfortunately
given nothing to do as Bateman's fiancee. Chloe Sevigny ("Boys Don't Cry")
gives an adequate performance as Bateman's secretary, the only person he
seems to actually care about. The remainder of the supporting cast is
comprised of actors like Jared Leto ("Fight Club") and Willem Dafoe
("Affliction"), who aren't given much to do, but that doesn't really matter
since the focus of the movie should and does stay on Bateman.
"American Psycho" has a few other things going for it besides the acting and
revolting, yet strangely ivoling plot. The soundtrack is a perfect
combination of '80s and classical music and is always used at just the right
moments. Bateman's voice overs, explaining his actions and his state of
mind, never seem out of place and actually give us some needed insight into
his actions and what makes him do what he does. The humor sprinkled
throughout the movie is at times hilarious, especially a scene in which
Bateman and his colleagues compare business cards. The only thing working
against the movie is the rather confusing and ambiguous ending. I think it
was supposed to tie everything up and offer some sort of explanation, but I
had no idea what was going on. "American Psycho" runs a perfect 97 minutes
and not a scene is wasted. I'd recommend the movie to fans of very, very
dark humor and give it four and a half out of five stars.
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* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now.
* * * * - Great flick, try and catch this one.
* * * - Okay movie, hits and misses.
* * - Pretty bad, see it only if you have nothing better to do.
Copyright © 2000 John Beachem