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American Psycho

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: American Psycho

Starring: Christian Bale, Chloe Sevigny
Director: Mary Harron
Rated: R
RunTime: 97 Minutes
Release Date: April 2000
Genres: Comedy, Horror

*Also starring: Justin Theroux, Jared Leto, Samantha Mathis, Joshua Lucas, Guinevere Turner, Matt Ross, Reese Witherspoon, Willem Dafoe

Review by Walter Frith
3 stars out of 4

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) will deceive you. To women, his astounding good looks, fabulous wardrobe and knowledge of mergers and acquisitions will seem irresistible. To men, his personality and personal life (at least what they think they know about it), is one of envy. Patrick likes to make mention of the fact that when women ask him what he's "in to" he says: "Murders and executions, actually". From a distance across a nightclub table with loud music playing, it sounds like "mergers and acquisitions". There is much more to 'American Psycho' than this description and the film's layers of artsy decorum crossed with bizarre humour and lacerating violence makes for a film with an extraordinary vision on the part of Mary Herron who captures the horrors of violence as well as any director praised in the modern era. It's an old story, but this is a film mostly for film buffs who know what makes a good mix in the film industry and the average movie patron may discard it as sick trash. This hurts the film somewhat because its limited appeal will get lost in an ever increasing amount of film productions and a film like this may end up as a needle in a hay stack, for lack of a better term.

Patrick Bateman has another passion. After luring his prey to his yuppie pad in the heart of New York City, Bateman has the seduction going perfectly. Champagne in the bedroom, a pleasant atmosphere and he puts music on and critiques it in harmonious fashion before killing his victims through strangulation, the use of sharp instruments or chain saws.....all done with an intensity to bloody his hardwood floors, muck up his white walls and clutter up his closet with dismembered body parts. The film puts an interesting twist on the "me" generation. Set in the heart of the 80's era of greed (1987 to be exact), all of the familiar wardrobes, music and sets of that time come back to show what times were like and how the human mind is capable of so many dark and evil things. We get a sense early of Patrick's violent tendencies when he goes to pick up his bed linen from a Chinese laundry and shrieks at the fact that stains haven't been removed and he bellows out: "I am going to kill you" to the owners of the laundry facility after his frustration boils over from their inability to speak proper English. His over reaction and ability to make a mountain out of a mole hill make Patrick Bateman a character to be feared and Christian Bale pulls off the role perfectly and you may recall him as the young boy going through World War II in Steven Spielberg's 1987 effort 'Empire of the Sun'.

One thing that LOOKS like it will hurts this film is the lack of participation on the part of the other characters. Willlem Dafoe plays a police detective who investigates the murders that Patrick has committed, Reese Witherspoon is his materialistic and semi-synthetic fiancee and Chloe Sevigny is Patrick's executive assistant and Jared Leto is a colleague of Bateman's in the high powered world of finance. But as shallow as these characters are, the film works just fine for one reason. The film is told from Bateman's point of view and his own obsession with the violent aspects of his mind and the acts that come about as a result of his fantasies shuts out all of the character's grasps on his life to the extent of only rejoicing in his own violent excess.

'American Psycho' was originally intended as a turn for Oliver Stone to direct Leonardo DiCaprio. Given the fact that many consider Stone's 'Natural Born Killers' a cult masterpiece, he would have been a good choice but this film needed a fresh vision from a relatively unknown film maker. It's one of those subjects that's been done too often to put a familiar name in the director's chair and the fresher the directing senses are for a film like this, the more likely it is to rile up people to cause controversy and talk which will only increase the film's success.

The film has a conclusion that will throw you off key somewhat in terms of what actually DID happen. The balance between comedy and horror in this film is as difficult to pull off as a tight rope walker balancing himself on a wire hanging over Niagara Falls. A great deal of the credit for the film has to be given to editor Andrew Marcus. He sharply enhances Bale's performance in the lead by inserting his image routinely like a pop up target in many scenes to make the audience truly recognize him as a hard boiled and classic movie villain.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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