American Psycho

2000, Movie, R, 101 mins


It's not a great film, but let's face it: Considering the source, this is as good as it was ever going to get. Director Mary Harron takes Bret Easton Ellis's notorious 1991 novel about empty sex and violent death among New York City's yuppie scum for what the book's apologists claimed it was all along: a blood-soaked satire skewering the image-obsessed '80s, and a fitting post-mortem for a morally bankrupt decade epitomized by corporate cannibalism, rampant cruelty and greed. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is just one of many immaculately tailored and completely interchangeable VPs at the Wall Street firm of Pierce & Pierce, but he's the only one likely to quip "I'm in murders and executions" rather than "mergers and acquisitions" and actually mean it. At the end of a day that starts with a rigorous beauty regimen involving pricey products pour l'homme, and a long day at the office spent making dinner reservations at the city's trendiest restaurants, Bateman makes time for the occasional brutal murder: one of the city's many homeless, perhaps; or a young lady friend; or even an envied fellow VP at P&P. Taking their cue from the outrage that greeted Ellis's novel, Harron and co-writers Guinevere Turner and Roberta Hanley cagily cover themselves on the misogyny front (the film's women — Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis and Cara Seymour — are the only characters granted a modicum of humanity) and excessive violence (nearly all the notoriously gory set-pieces occur offscreen), but they also leech the essential outrageousness from Ellis's gruesome tale. Bale, pumped to underwear-model perfection, is a truly terrifying spectacle of grinning, shifting masks, and Gideon Ponte's production design is perfect, right down to the last exquisite detail. In the end, the real horror of American Psycho is in the endless surface details, and if the film feels empty, Harron has herself covered there as well: Emptiness is what's it's all about. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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