Saturday, April 9, 2011

American Psycho (2000)

This is a bizarre film for me to review. It was a movie that I often heard about in the early 2000's. One of my friends saw it and he seemed to enjoy it. I didn't see it for the first time until just last year. It was an interesting turning point for me because I had just bought a Blu-Ray player and the Blu-Ray for this film was the first one I ever watched. Naturally, I was quite amazed by what a difference it was between the two formats. But we're not here to talk about Blu-Ray. I knew what American Psycho was about: a Wall Street yuppie who snaps and begins killing. I also knew it served as a dark satire of 1980's culture and economics. I have nothing against a horror or thriller being smart as long as it's entertaining as well. For me, this film was kind of entertaining but in the end, it left me rather underwhelmed.

The best thing about this film undeniably is Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, the psychotic title character. Say what you will about Bale: about his ridiculous Batman voice, his tendency to be a little high strung on film sets (Get off my set and stop looking at the lights!), etc. Sure, he may have some faults but he's definitely a dedicated actor who will put himself through hell to achieve the best results and he now has an Oscar to show for it. And his performance as Bateman is no exception. From the start of the film, Bateman narrates to us about himself and his peers and he is such an egotistical asshole that it's amazing. He describes his diet and exercise routine, how he feels about the people around him, how he thinks everybody else is lower than him... bottom line, he's a douche. At one point, he has a three-some with two women and while he has sex with them, he admires himself in the mirror and even makes them look into a video camera that's filming everything. What a selfish prick!

Bateman also narrates to us about his less than stellar mental state. He comments that he's cold, detached, and feels no emotions except for greed and disgust. He also comments that he's had nightly bloodlusts for a long time but they're beginning to happen during the day now. He says he thinks his mask of sanity is about to slip... and we're about to see it. Before we actually see him kill somebody, it's made clear that he has issues when he erupts towards people, threatening to kill one woman in a nightclub but she doesn't hear it because of the loud music. The first murder on-screen (as I said, it's obvious he's killed before) is of a homeless man who Bateman takes absolutely no pity on and brutally stabs to death. Immediately afterward, he cruelly kills the man's dog. He kills a colleague named Paul Allen apparently for the superficial reason that his business card looked better than his (or possibly because Allen, not knowing who Bateman is and mistaking him for someone else, unknowingly calls him a dork right to his face). Right before he kills Allen, he talks about his love of Huey Lewis and the News, actually playing it's Hip to be Square right while he does so and even moonwalking right before! Clearly, music has something to do with setting Bateman off.

One interesting thing about the film is that while it appears that Bateman is a serial killer, the ending of the film suggests that everything that has transpired may all be in his head. When he meets with his lawyer at the end of the film after leaving a message confessing about his killings (many more than we've seen, I might add), his lawyer keeps calling him Davis, not Bateman, and refers to Bateman as if that's someone else entirely. Maybe he really is Davis and Bateman is a different personality that his crazed mind has created for himself. Also, Bateman's lawyer said that he recently had lunch with Paul Allen, whom Bateman supposedly killed. Maybe all those murders were just fantasies, along with his outbursts at people. Maybe he's been living in a fantasy world. And when he sits down with his friends at the table and they're still referring to him as Bateman, he's momentary break with his fantasy has been closed up again. His last narration suggests that it's all been a confession about what he feels, that he now wants to inflict pain on others. Maybe now he will actually start killing people. I'll give American Psycho this: it does pull off this proposed case of multiple identity much better than High Tension and doesn't botch it like that film did.

Since the film's entire focus is on Bateman and therefore, Christian Bale is in every single scene, none of the other characters are that important but the actors do their job well enough. My favorite secondary character was Willem Dafoe as Det. Donald Kimball, the man investigating the disappearances of Bateman's victims. Dafoe is so good in everything that even his ever so small presence in this film is memorable. (Although, since it's unclear by the end if Bateman actually killed anyone, Kimball could be a fabrication of his mind.) The other actors, Josh Lucas, Justin Theroux, Bill Sage, Reese Witherspoon, etc., all play their small parts acceptably. Just how smug the other yuppies are is also entertaining to watch. They're just such assholes that you want to hit them.

You're probably wondering at this point why I said that I don't care much for American Psycho when I've been praising it for the most part. The whole thing comes down to the satire that the film is trying to project. While I do think the satire of Reaganomics and the lifestyle in New York in the 80's is done well, I just can't help but not be that entertained by it. There are movies like Robocop and Wall Street that are satire of the time period that were actually made at that time and therefore, did a much better job of illustrating it as well as being entertaining. I didn't find American Psycho to be that entertaining but, in the end, it probably wasn't meant to be entertaining but to be unpleasant. I guess it's just a matter of personal taste and the film just isn't my cup of tea.

That's my less than stellar review of American Psycho. You could probably tell from reading this that I don't know that much about the film and only seeing it twice probably isn't enough to warrant a proper critique. Still, I wanted to give my two cents about it from what I feel. I know there are others out there much smarter than me that could get something out of this movie and I applaud them. It just left me cold, personally. But as I said, that could be the point.

1 comment:

  1. I think this film really works if you are old enough to remember how superficial the 80's were. It also helps if you have read the book it is based on. I saw this 3 times when it was in theaters,and love it. And think it is one of the best horror films of the last decade.