Urban Cinefile
".the sex symbol of geekdom and nerdiness, the pinup hunk of the losers' tribe - Noah Taylor.."  -The Bitch, in Urban Cinefile, about Australia's love of losers, viz Shine
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



In greedy 1987, 28 year-old Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a Wall Street player dedicated to a lifestyle of material acquisition and status. Engaged to
Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon), Patrick's apparently perfect world revolves around physical perfection, designer labels, corporate power plays and getting bookings at trendy restaurants. Patrick Bateman is also a serial killer whose murder spree begins with a homeless man and accelerates as the disgust for the world he lives becomes all-consuming.

"You don't expect it to be funny. Not laugh out loud funny - and it's not just me. I saw it with a full house at the Sydney Film Festival, and many people laughed. It's the comedy of surprise, of the bizarre and unexpected, of the inappropriate - of the psychotic. Christian Bale is brilliant as Patrick Bateman, an American psycho with a day job. He obsesses over his corporate status on Wall Street, over his grooming (skin care in particular) and over the ascendancy of business cards. He narrates the story of his journey through the bars and nightmares of his life, a journey which ends nowhere. He is not redeemed. I hope you don't think I'm spoiling the film for you, because I'm not. The film is not about redemption, even though it's an American film. It's about the lack of it, the impossibility of it in America. And don't be fooled by the resonance of his name to Norman Bates, another American Psycho, nor by Bale's vaguely Anthony Perkins-like look. It's not that kind of film. Nor is it quite a modern Jack the Ripper. I found the film less affecting and less disturbing than some (eg my colleague David Edwards) because Mary Harron's direction lifts the dialogue out of the book's context by a style that is a kind of self-parody. This is highly risky as the reality is watered down, which in turn lessens the dramatic impact; where it should be chilling, it is coolly funny. The complexities of story telling and filmmaking clash, setting up a buffer zone between us and the psychopathic unraveling of a man who is by his own admission "simply not there". New York yuppies in the 80s appear nothing more than vain fools. They are not terrifying, and Bateman himself is at times an object of ridicule - which is far from scary. As a metaphor for America today (or even in the 80s) American Psycho is not original: shallow and superficial morality over profound substance is a (over simplified) view many people already have of the greatest free nation in the world. That it is in as much agony as Bateman is over his terrible self is also obvious. American Psycho is controversial - and at least it looks fresh."
Andrew L. Urban

"In a film full of memorable lines the one which summed up the world of Brett Easton Ellis' novel and this screen adaptation is spoken by one of Patrick Bateman's co-workers. As the conversation turns inevitably to restaurants and where they should eat to score maximum status points one says "I'm not really hungry but I'd just like to know I've got a reservation". Appearance is everything. This ferociously funny satire based on the most maligned novel of the 90's could be subtitled A Nightmare On Wall St as the blank space known as Patrick Bateman becomes the ultimate metaphor for the grisly hedonism which drove the 1980's and remains active, though less conspicuous, today. If anyone had trouble accepting the metaphors in Brett Easton Ellis' writing, Mary Harron's brilliant film leaves us in no doubt that, in the characters own words, he is "simply not there". Not as flesh and blood but as a potent symbol of moral and spiritual decay in western industrial economies cannibalised by consumerism and the superficial. Director/co-writer Mary Harron gets everything right here. Bateman is an idea borne of disgust and indulgence for its own sake. His victims, importantly, are very real; they are the disenfranchised without eggshell coloured business cards and entree to the nothing masquerading as something that is Bateman's world. The comic book violence becomes uncomfortably real as Bateman's spree intensifies; early laughter at his long-winded analysis of Whitney Houston and Phil Collins songs subsiding as the brutality of a system which creates the notion of a Patrick Bateman is realised. Performances are superb all-round, with Bale mesmerising whether relating the details of his face-pack and stomach-crunch morning ritual or wielding a chainsaw down a corridor. Chloe Sevigny's doe-eyed looks work perfectly as his mousy secretary and Reese Witherspoon a shrill delight as his vacuous girlfriend - the embodiment of a "social x-ray" from Bonfire Of The Vanities. Rounded out with crisp, antiseptic photography and a soundtrack mixing the brilliant and the deliberately banal, this is a powerhouse journey into the dark side."
Richard Kuipers

"Few books have caused more controversy in recent times than Bret Easton Ellisí American Psycho (if you buy it in Australia, it will be sealed in plastic) and now the story hits the big screen. Despite what you may have heard, this film is definitely not a slasher or horror movie; although it is horrific in its own way. American Psycho is an examination of evil lurking amongst us; and of our blithe ignorance of it so as not to disturb our otherwise "perfect" lives. It challenges us to consider the very value of human life in a materialistic society. Thatís not to say the film isnít entertaining - itís engaging, very funny and the plot moves along at a pace. For the squeamish, donít worry. In the tradition of Hitchcock, virtually all the violence takes place off-screen (which is to say, in your head). As the dapper but disturbed Bateman, Christian Bale turns in one of the best performances of the year so far. Heís clearly studied Peter Lorreís whistling psychopath in Fritz Langís classic M (a thematically similar film). His blend of surface style and dark underbelly is wonderful to watch. Oscar nominee Chloe Sevigny gets limited screen time as his doe-eyed secretary; but is entirely convincing. Reese Witherspoon is achingly "80s" as Evelyn; Samantha Mathisí Courtney is ennui personified; and Willem Dafoe does his best Columbo as the smarter-than-he-looks detective. American Psycho is an exciting and disturbing film. Whether you ultimately like it or not, you wonít soon forget it. And youíll never look at a business card the same way again."
David Edwards

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1




CAST: Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross

DIRECTOR: Mary Harron

PRODUCER: Christian Halsey Solomon, Chris Hanley, Edward R. Pressman, Ron Rotholtz

SCRIPT: Bret Easton Ellis, Mary Harron, Guinevere Turner


EDITOR: Andrew Marcus

MUSIC: John Cale


RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes




VIDEO RELEASE: February 14, 2001

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2021