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American Psycho   A-

Lions Gate Films

Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Mary Harron
Writers: Guinevere Turner, Mary Harron (based on the novel by Brett Easton Ellis)
Cast: Christian Bale, William Dafoe, Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis, Chloe Sevigny, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Guinevere Turner, Matt Ross, William Sage, Cara Seymour.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Like its main character, the extremely funny American Psycho may appear to have no soul. It seems nice and gleaming on the surface -- delightfully so, even -- but does it really have any substance, any emotional relevance at all? I'd say it does. Behind all the gruesome murders and heartless sex, American Psycho shows us a guy struggling to find his soul -- he just happens to kill hookers with chainsaws and ax his coworkers to death from time to time.

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a guy who's molded himself into exactly what he thinks society wants him to be. He's the personification of the greed-driven 1980s yuppie scumbag -- charming and attractive on the surface, but empty on the inside. As Bateman himself says in voice-over narration, he simply "doesn't exist." He's got a lush, expensive apartment, a beautiful fiancée (Reese Witherspoon), an extensive pop music collection, and a very nice business card. Driven to conform to society's expectations -- and, in fact, striving to exceed them to one-up his coworkers and everyone else around him -- it's no wonder his mask of sanity is beginning to slip.

Based on Brett Easton Ellis' controversial novel of the same name, American Psycho interweaves sex and violence in a way that's bound to upset some people. Director Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol) has toned down the novel's explicit violence (it's always just off-camera), but the energetic glee with which Bateman carries out the carnage is on full display. Bateman, who has a true affection for '80s pop, often meditates on the deeper meaning of songs by the likes of Huey Lewis and the News while getting that gleaming ax ready to pummel a coworker. Seeing Bateman running around naked with a chainsaw, chasing after a hooker, is one of the funniest moments of gleeful horror seen in years. To Bateman, sex and violence are one in the same. Just a means to let out all the frustration he hides in his everyday life.

Bateman says he has no recognizable feelings other than greed and disgust. I think he actually has a heart buried down inside him somewhere, and he just might have a bit of affection for his secretary Jean (Chloe Sevigny). Jean is obviously fond of him, and Sevigny captures her character in a moving and subtle performance.

Driving this ride through manic delirium is a soundtrack of '80s pop hits that gives American Psycho a thrilling upbeat rhythm. Director Mary Harron keeps this witty satire briskly paced and stylish, while Christian Bale delivers a wonderful performance as the ultimate soulless yuppie. Yes, it's official. We live in a society so infatuated with public image that it can turn men into monsters -- just pray that they find their souls before they reach for the nail gun.

Review published 04.14.2000.

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