American Psycho (2000)
“No Introduction Necessary.”
American Psycho (2000)
Director: Mary Harron
Cast: Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas
Synopsis: A wealthy New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he escalates deeper into his illogical, gratuitous fantasies.
‘I simply am not there,’ says Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale – Out of the Furnace, American Hustle) early in Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s controversial novel. It’s an oddly chilling statement from a truly terrifying character who is the embodiment of the shallow materialism that defined the 1980s. Bateman operates in a society in which the people are interchangeable and are repeatedly mistaken for one another; he obsesses over business cards, designer suits, immaculate grooming – all the things we’re told aren’t important to a happy, healthy lifestyle. His life is empty, and he’s an empty vessel, capable of feeling only ‘greed and disgust.’
This anonymity of characters is what enables Bateman to pull off a series of murders with apparently absurd ease. The world is too self-absorbed to notice his atrocities. It’s a world in which a naked man wielding a chainsaw can chase a screaming prostitute through apartment corridors without attracting the curiosity of its residents, and can leave a bloody trail in the marble foyer of his plush apartment building as he drags another victim – a work colleague who has displeased him – past a security guard to the boot of a waiting taxi cab. But there’s a price to pay for this apparent impunity and, as Bateman confesses, his mask of sanity is about to slip.
There are some who complain that the movie American Psycho lacks the graphic violence of Easton’s novel (although to be fair to Harron if she had attempted to film some of the horrific scenes from the book her film would never have received a rating). What these complainers fail to understand is that American Psycho isn’t a horror movie/novel at all – it’s a vicious satirical comedy which deliberately borders on the absurd as it unfailingly exposes the way that we lose our humanity when our motivating force is the acquisition of the latest must-have possession, and how attempts to conform to a society in which a person is judged by their possessions can be irreparably damaging to the individual. Bateman is society’s sickest victim, a human who has completely erased his true identity in pursuit of the essentially worthless, and Christian Bale delivers a remarkable performance in which every expression is a lie while the mask is in place, and a lost and panicky plea for help whenever it momentarily slips.
If there is any horror within American Psycho, it’s there in the final scene, in which a sweating, exhausted Bateman realises that his confession has meant nothing, that there is no escape from his madness, and no prospect of punishment. He’s trapped. As in the novel, Bateman is within sight of a door as the realisation hits him, and over the door is a sign which reads ‘This Is Not an Exit.’ Now that’s horrific…
(Reviewed 30th December 2014)