American Psycho


dir Mary Harron
scr Mary Harron, Guinevere Turner
with Christian Bale, Chloe Sevigny, Willem Dafoe, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto, Samantha Mathis, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Matt Ross, Guinevere Turner, Cara Seymour, Bill Sage
Lions Gate 00/US 4 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
Brett Easton Ellis' controversial and violent novel American Psycho is about as black as comedy gets, and Harron captures the tone and themes perfectly here, highlighting the vacuousness of 80s consumerism without pulling any punches at all. It's a remarkable film, impeccably directed and acted ... and very, very funny.

Patrick Bateman (Bale) is a successful Manhattan financier in the mid-80s, but his life and work are so dull that he turns to serial killing to liven things up. Or does he? He's so obsessed with labels and tiny details that he might just be indulging in a particularly gruesome fantasy life. His anonymous coworkers, eager-to-please secretary (Sevigny), histrionic girlfriend (Witherspoon) and even a nosy cop (Dafoe) don't seen to notice anything's up. But then, they're all obsessed with their selfish lives as well.

Harron wisely concentrates on Patrick's internal quirks and struggles, keeping the violence off screen (but not the sexual fantasies). The result is sinister and creepy ... and hilariously wicked as it takes on the utter emptiness of material, social and corporate climbing. Bale is flawless, descending from fit and tanned to manic and gaunt with just the right amount of inner anguish and confusion. And both Witherspoon and Sevigny create memorable characters who are very different (a socially ambitious shark and a timid, honest woman, respectively). If there's any complaint, it's that the film is never moving or particularly involving. It's so manic and offbeat that we never really feel this is real life. And to be honest, Manhattan in the mid-80s wasn't.

[18--strong adult themes and situations, violence, nudity, language] 13.Mar.00
US release 7.Apr.00; UK release 21.Apr.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall