American Psycho

Mary Harron, USA, 2000, 102 min.

It had a tumultuous history coming to the screen but when it arrived American Psycho showed that making a movie out of the notorious novel was possible. The novel, about an inhuman yuppie serial killer, is meandering, unfocused and very very graphic. When reading it I was struck by how much material there was to choose from when writing the screenplay.

What Mary Harron does well is choose the bits of the story that flesh out the lifestyle and personality (or lack-there-of) of the titular serial killer, Patrick Bateman. The downpour of violence and degradation is left out and the graphic scenes left in are that much more powerful for it.

The style is slick and shiny. Christian Bale does a great job in a role that not many people could pull off. He looks and acts the part with a dead-behind-the-eyes pretty boy stare. But he also manages to go all-out crazy when necessary.

It’s a great and unique film, with only one flaw that gnaws at me every time I see it. Patrick Bateman loses his grip on reality almost instantly in this film. It seems to come out of nowhere. He goes to an ATM and the message “FEED ME A STRAY CAT” appears on the ATM screen, starting a crazed surreal sequence that caps the film. It’s an obvious shift into a new mental state, but I never felt that it was fully deserved.

Yes, Patrick Bateman as a character needs to go in the direction the film takes him. I just wished that there was a little more buildup. At some point towards the end things get very strange very fast. Maybe that was the point? Maybe his breakdown was immediate? In any case, that is the only issue I have with this well-made provocative film.

This film wins the award “Best Scene at an ATM Machine” for the very funny moment where Patrick Bateman tries to fit a stray cat into the card slot.

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