Monsters have been a main stay of films for many decades. Movie monsters have come from the depths of the earth or sea, from the farthest reaches of outer space.
Many monsters were the creation of radiation, chemicals or an evil genius trying to out do God. Most of these were scary up to a point because in the deepest parts of our minds know these creatures do not exist.
What makes American Psycho a truly frightening film is the monster is a 27-year-old businessman, the kind you may pass in an elevator or on the street.
Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman, young Vice President for an investment firm. He is handsome, agile of mind and very good at his job in Mergers and Acquisitions. The problem is Patrick is a psychotic madman.
First of all Patrick is, by his own admission, not someone burdened by human frailties such as compassion, love or tenderness. He looks at these traits from the outside, not able to experience them first hand. He goes through the motions well enough while in public.
He has a beautiful fiancée Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon) who is more infatuated with the planning of a huge wedding than with the actual concept of love or commitment.
Patrick has a beautiful mistress, (the fiancée of a friend) Courtney (Samantha Mathis) that is too heavily medicated of psychotropic drugs to really care about anything.
Patrick tells the audience in detail how well he cares for himself. The hours it takes each morning to exercise, how he washes with the right pore opener, cleans with the right scrub. Unfortunately for other around him, Patrick is just as meticulous in his killing. He plans the murders with a precision that would have Hannibal Lecture feel like an amateur. Patrick even has to choose the right music to torture and kill.
With a film like American Psycho it is vital to have a cast that can pull off the complex emotional states demanded by the script.
Bale is chilling as Patrick. To look at him you see the almost pleasant young captain of industry yet he lets out little glimpses of the pure evil that lies just beneath the surface.
In one pivotal scene Patrick shows off his new business card, pointing out the color, texture and font type. Each man at the meeting, in turn, trumps the others with a better card. Looking at Bale play this scene you can see the jealousy grow in his eyes as each card placed on the table is like a knife plunged into his heart.
It's these little touches that help us to understand the true horror here, you just can’t tell who is a killer.
It’s like the scene in the Addams Family movie where Wednesday is not wearing a costume, she flatly states ‘I’m going as a psychopathic killer, they look like everyone else’.
Then there is the zonked out performance of Mathis as the mistress. She is so stoned throughout American Psycho that her lines are as blurry as her character.
Whiterspoon as the airhead socialite takes the same almost comic extreme. Patrick confesses to her but she goes right own worrying about the wedding plans.
The only female that comes across as a real person is doe-eyed Chloe Sevigny. Once again she plays the innocent victim (a role she plays better than anyone around) but here she is saved literally by the bell. Sevigny is great as Paul’s secretary, who has a crush on him. It goes to show how well he hinds his true self from others.
A woman, Mary Harron, thankfully directs American Psycho. I say thankfully because if a man directed this very misogynistic film people would probably concentrate on the almost disposable way women are treated in the film rather than the quality of the writing, acting and direction.
Harron has managed to turn American Psycho into an extreme look at male vanity. Paul is far more vain in American Psycho than any woman ever shown in movies. He doesn’t restrict his violence to woman, homeless men, co-workers and pets are equal game for his release.
Harron paints us a picture of a man over the edge and then pulls us back with a little twist at the end that I really enjoyed. She has not had a lot of directorial experience.
Prior to this she did one film, ‘I Shot Andy Warhol’ and episodes of HBO’s OZ and Homicide: Life on the Street. I guess this shows she has a pretty violent resume after all.
The American Psycho disc is excellent and up to contemporary standards.
The subwoofer is a bit over used in many scenes, especially when the men are in a club. Sometimes it is difficult to understand the dialogue and I actually had to resort to the sub titles.
The picture is ultra clear, almost to the point of extreme. This is actually part of the cinematography nicely showing the state of hyperrealism that Paul lives in.
There are not much in the way of extras here in American Psycho, just a making of featurette and some notes. There is both a theatrical (rated R) and unrated version out but each is available on a separate DVD much like American Pie was released.
A chilling evening if you can take it.
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