American Psycho

08/17/2015 19:47

Film: American Psycho

Year: 2000

Director: Mary Harron

Writer: Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner

Starring: Christian Bale, Justin Theroux and Josh Lucas



This film I originally saw in college when one of my buddies put it on. I had no idea what it was and was just shocked with what I saw in such a good way. I think I’ve seen it a few times now and just now fully starting to understand it all. I had some theories, but it really took listening to others thoughts as well as those who have read the book for me to think I finally get everything. The synopsis is a wealthy New York City investment banking executive, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), hides his alternative psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he delves deeper into his violent, hedonist fantasies.

As it states, we follow Patrick who we never actually see do any work. He is engaged to marry Evelyn Williams (Reese Witherspoon), but he doesn’t love her. He actually has no emotion, as he states himself. He admits to really just going through the motions of trying to be human, but aside from flesh, blood and looking that way, he doesn’t feel emotion aside from disgust and greed.

He has a close group of friends of Timothy Bryce (Justin Theroux), who Bale believes is sleeping with his fiancé. They also hang out the most together, doing a lot of drinking and drugs. There’s also Craig McDermott (Josh Lucas) as well as David Van Patten (Bill Sage). They all work together at the same firm. Another guy they work with is Luis Carruthers (Matt Ross). He is odd and he is engaged to marry Courtney Rawlinson (Samantha Mathis). She is having an affair with Patrick though. This group of people goes out to eat all the time at fancy restaurants, drink and do drugs, living a rich lifestyle, but all of them are out of touch with reality. The four men who hang out together are sexist and definitely pretentious.

Patrick tells us he’s losing the mask of sanity. What doesn’t help is his encounters with Paul Allen (Jared Leto). The first is that we get an odd measuring of ego by comparing business cards. Patrick then goes out to dinner with Paul, but he thinks that Patrick is actually someone else the whole time. It takes a dark turn when Patrick kills him with an ax.

This brings him into contact with Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe), a detective who is looking into the disappearance of Paul. Patrick is becoming more and more unhinged and has less control over his actions. The issue becomes though, who is Patrick Bateman and are what we seeing real or just in the mind of a psychopath?

As I’ve said now that I’ve seen this film a few times, I can see some interesting things that this film is addressing. The first is I’ve heard some people contend this is not a horror film. I most definitely feel that this falls into that category. We first have a psychopath that is on the edge of sanity that is going around killing people. Not all of this is done on screen, but it just has that dark feel about it. Seeing Patrick as he slips into madness is really something that is enjoyable.

From here I want to shift to the interesting idea that all of these male characters are pretty much the same person. Of course, they’re not. We can see that each one of them is different, but none of them really have an identity. This last viewing was in the theater with my girlfriend and she pointed out that they all look the same. They all want to do the same exact things and it is really just showing they are a stereotype of these people from the 1980’s and really have no personal thing to set them apart.

That moves to the point where since they’re all so similar, no one can tell each other apart. Of course Patrick, Timothy, Craig and David all know each other, but Paul thinks that Patrick is someone else. Patrick talks to his lawyer at the end and thinks he’s someone else and even thinks he went out to dinner with Paul. To take it farther, they’re all sleeping with each other’s fiancés and none of them seem to care about that either. They’re just maintaining a lifestyle that they think they should. The final thing about them is that they’re horribly pretentious as well as misogynistic.

I want to shift to this to the acting and going to have just a paragraph here dedicated to Bale. His performance here is unreal. I like that he does so well at showing at first how much of a sociopath that Patrick is. It is a lot like watching the show Dexter that came out after this, in that they both know they’re really just doing what they can to get by. Seeing Patrick as the more he kills, the more he loses control. But in the end, we don’t know if what he’s done actually happened or not. I’m going to have a spoiler section at the bottom as to what I think happens here.

As for the rest of the acting, I think that Theroux, Lucas and Sage are all solid. They do well at pretty much mirroring each other which I dug. Chloë Sevigny has an interesting role as Jean, Patrick’s secretary. She is attracted to him, which is fitting since she’s into men who are available and just wants to be part of this world. Witherspoon and Mathias are also mirrors of each other which works. I have to a lot of credit to Dafoe, he’s so good here. I love that his scenes were filmed with three different expressions of Kimball thinking Patrick didn’t, thinking he’s innocent and one of just not knowing, then just splicing them in to just make Patrick seem that unnerved when trying to read him. Ross, Leto and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.

That will shift me to the pacing of this film, which I think is good. It has a run time of around 100 minutes and to be honest, it doesn’t feel like it. We just move through this descent into madness as it gets worse and worse. Seeing that no one around him really knows him makes it that much worse. Much like his descent, his acts of violence get progressively more aggressive as well. I really dig the ending and the implications of everything that we get there. It is both terrifying and kind of sickening as well.

The effects are really good. This isn’t necessarily a gory film as a lot of what happens is off screen. What we do get though is blood that looks pretty real. We get to see some bodies, but only for a glimpse which works. The tension is built through seeing the build up and just how Patrick has no real touch with reality. It is shot very well to convey this also.

The last thing to cover here would the soundtrack. I love that Patrick is a connoisseur of music from the era. It seems out of place with the things that he’s into, but he has dissected it in such a way that it is surgical. How he describes these songs before he commits violent acts is wonderful in bringing not only horror, but dread as well. I think that the score fits for what they needed for sure.

Now with that said, the more I see this film, the more I appreciate it. There’s such a great character study of someone who seems to have it all, but has no touch with reality. Bale’s acting in bringing Patrick to life is wonderful. He’s accompanied by a solid cast as well. It is paced in a way where I don’t find it boring and the ending is just great. The effects are really good, even though we necessarily don’t get a lot. The soundtrack fits for what was needed. This is a film that really does benefit from multiple watches to really piece together everything that we are seeing here. This definitely a film I find to be great for sure. I would recommend to horror and non-horror fans alike to give this one a viewing for sure.


My Rating: 10 out of 10




Now what do I think happened. I think that Patrick murdered Paul as well as some of the other girls that he brought home including Christie (Cara Seymour) as well as Elizabeth (Guinevere Turner). I do believe the homeless man we see early on was murdered as well. Kimball is coming around to investigate the murder. I think though that the rampage Patrick goes on late in the film isn’t really happening. He thinks he kills all those people, but he’s just panicking and ends up back at his office. What works in his favor is that no one really knows anyone else, so his lawyer really does think he’s someone else much like Paul thought he was someone else. I do think there really are murders is when they’re showing Paul’s apartment, the lady there has a look of dread and tells him to leave. Since it is an expensive place, they’re covering it up as well. Patrick is going to get away with it for now since no one really knows who he is, including himself.