All Time Classics: American Psycho 2000

American Psycho

Cast: Christian Bale, Chloe Sevingy, Jared Leto

Writers: Mary Harron, Guinevere Turner (Screenplay)  Bret Easton Ellis (Novel)

Director: Mary Harron.

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To call “American Psycho” simply a slasher flick would be like calling “Jaws” a movie just about a shark.  Yes, there are violent scenes that appear throughout it,but if your focus is mainly on that and nothing else. You are missing out on what is essentially a dark satire on not just the whole yuppie syndrome during the late 80’s.  But also the need to appear successful  to a particular social group.  One of the running jokes of this feature (of which there are many) is that all the men dress the same and can never be different from each other.  Yet they also want to  show the world that they are better than everyone else.  So they get the best apartment, the best job, the best girl.  Everything in these guys’ life is about material possessions and nothing more.  The only difference between them and our main character of Patrick Bateman(played brilliantly by Christian Bale) is that he willing to kill to get those same material tokens.

The fact that Patrick Bateman enjoys violence and murders makes that aspect of his life a little bit more interesting.  Because, let’s face it, the guy is a complete dork.  He finds serious insights to music by Huey Lewis and the News and Phill Collins.  His conversations with his so-called peers or girls he meets sound like they came from a badly written self-help pamphlet or a Sears catalog.  The only thing that he has going for him is that many find him to be  very attractive.  This is true today, because you can be the dumbest person in the world, but as long as you have tight abs or big tits.  Someone will want to fuck you.   Patrick Bateman is very successful and to the general public would seem to have it all.  But that’s not enough, everyone in his social circle has to belive that he is the best.  Take the classic moment when the men are all comparing their business cards.  Every card looks exactly like the next one, but the way it’s described.  You would think it was hand carved up on the mountains by the gods themselves.  When Patrick’s card is out shunned by another.  He feels betrayed because in his eyes he has become ordinary, and this can not happen.  In Patrick’s world he is the best and others that get in his way are cut down.  Literally and figuratively.   There are many other  social and psychological layers to not just the characters but also the story,  and the time period as well.  The 80’s was the decade of complete  over materialization of people and things.  Yes to quote Madonna herself, we were all material girls living in a material world.   Take the stuff that Patrick Bateman owned for example.  None of the things he liked were really that good, but they were extremely popular.  Therefore it added value.  How else can you explain the moment when he is trying to escape from the cops and he only chooses the high-end fancy cars, but tries none of the other (more cheaply made) models.  It’s all about the value.

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Many belive that the murders committed by Mr. Bateman did not actually happen.  They were just part of  his fantasies.  This theory can be true especially in certain sections.  Take for example the moment right before he takes an Axe to Paul Allen’s(Jared Letto) head.  He is shown standing before a mirror talking some sort of pill.  Plus everyone assumes that Paul is still alive and have seen him in other spots since the murder.  There is also the moment after Patrick kills the one hooker with a chainsaw.  It cuts to him drawing the picture of the incident. One could make the argument that the whole previous moments were just a fantasy too.   I think the whole point of “American Psycho” isn’t the murders he may or may have not done.  It’s the fact that no one cares he does it.  Patrick admits several times that he enjoys killing, but many others just simply ignore it because as long as your successful.  Nothing else matters.  In fact no one in this movie relates that much to one another.  The only person that has any real sympathy is Jean(Chloe Sevingy) because she is the only one who hasn’t been fully corrupted by the whole system.    She is the one that can still get out, but since she is in love with Batman..oops sorry Bateman.  I can’t help but think her future isn’t going to be that bright.

The novel by Bret Easton Ellis was met with a lot of controversy when it was first released and was blamed by many groups for promoting violence against women.  How fitting it should be that a woman is the one to direct the picture.  Mary Harron and her co writer Guinevere Turner wisely tone down the heavy violence but crank up the comic wit.  If this was done by another director, It would have focused more on the gore and less on the story.   Many have complained that its lack of violence is what made the feature a failure in their eyes.   I stand by strongly that it’s one thing to read about someone describing these acts of violence.  It’s another thing to actually see it.  Harron and Turner capture at best the dark humor that was always present in the story, but was overshadowed because of its use of violence.   That’s not to say it doesn’t have moments of terror because it does.  It’s just more of a dark comedy then an all out horror movie.    “American Psycho” in my mind best captures a particular era that was long forgotten.  I would love to say more but I have some videotapes to return.

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About The Vern

I love movies and I enjoy writing about them too. They both go pretty much hand in hand with each other and it's fun to discover new classics. I co host the podcast The Film Pasture and As You Watch. While also contributing reviews and articles to other great sites when I can.
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13 Responses to All Time Classics: American Psycho 2000

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Vern. It’s a total classic and it’s all thanks to Bale’s amazingly iconic performance. Love the new site, btw!

  2. The Vern says:

    Thank you very much for the comment. I think the book and movie were even taught in some college classes. Sounds like a classic to me

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  5. “Hip to be Square” a song so catchy, most people probably don’t listen to the lyrics. Love that part!

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  8. I recently saw American Psycho for the first time (I had been avoiding it for awhile because of the violence) and absolutely loved every minute of it. Not only is Christian Bale flawless in the role, it’s one of the most interesting movies I’ve seen in awhile. I like that you point out that it doesn’t really matter whether or not Patrick Bateman actually commits any murders – it’s ambiguous because the story itself is about so much more.

    • The Vern says:

      I’m glad that you liked the movie Julia. The movie for me was about the need or want certain people have for wealth. Jordan Belfort(“Wolf of Wall Street”) and Patrick Bateman are similar in their quests for that substance. Except Belfort was a little bit more succsesful and he never actually killed anyone. I also liked that the movie toned down the violence from the book which as I said was extremely graphic. Thanks for reading and commenting

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