It must have been a challenge bringing Bret Easton Ellis’ infamous 1991 novel “American Psycho” to the screen. With its graphic violent content, most women hated the book, thinking it was degrading towards them. True, the title character did torture and mutilate young women. And the conversation between male Wall Street coworkers revolved around their dominant power over the female species.
Directed by Mary Harron (“I Shot Andy Warhol”), the film version of “American Psycho” wisely avoids the violence and gore of the novel and focuses more on the satire, that was always the main aspect of the book. For some reason most people didn’t understand that the psycho of “American Psycho,” Patrick Bateman, was the satire. He was anal retentive, a perfectionist, obsessed over the best body, clothes, tables at the most luxurious restaurant, etc. He also killed people. But not for the reason you’d think.
Christian Bale plays Bateman in the film, a wise choice indeed. Originally Leo DiCaprio was going to play him for $21 million. Leo looks hardly old enough to play a high school senior let alone a 27-year old Wall Street tycoon. Bateman works at Pierce & Pierce, on Wall Street. He is obviously good at what he does. He has a nice office, and a nice apartment. But Bateman’s apartment isn’t as nice as Paul Allen’s (Jared Leto), which faces Central Park.
Bateman and fellow Wall Street guru’s like to out-do each other. When Bateman decides to make reservations at a popular restaurant at the last minute, everyone looks at him as if he is mad. The man on the other end of the phone laughs at him as if he just cracked a joke. All he was trying to do was make dinner reservations for him and his fiancee, Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon). It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and Bateman seems to take it deadly serious. There is a truly hysterical scene, in which Bateman, Allen, and everyone, share their newly designed business cards (the music swells whenever someone passes the card, as if the passing of the card were the passing of some updated Ten Commandments). Allen’s business card is the best. Bateman doesn’t like that.
“American Psycho” isn’t about Patrick and his homicidal tendencies, but about how and why he becomes such a monster. Bateman brings home a fellow successful business man whom Bateman feels is a little too successful for his own good, and dances in the background to Huey Lewis and the News’ “Hip To Be Square,” with ax in hand. During all this, Bateman can’t stop critiquing the band’s best moments, in news anchor style, right before striking the ax at the beaming business man.
There was one line from Bateman that really states him. When going to a club he thinks to himself “We entered the place so late, I was about to break out in a cold sweat for I knew we would never get a good seat.” That pretty much says what Bateman is all about. It is all about the best and the best with him. Most of the men in this movie are bigots, racists, homophobes. It is more anti-man then women, although, it isn’t anti anything. Well, maybe anti-psychotic.
There is one brilliant scene near the end when Bateman goes on a rampage through the streets of New York, with gun in hand. When he shoots at a car, and it explodes, he looks at the cloud of fire, then at the pistol in his han in amazement. He has no idea the power the gun has. It is a really short scene, but, an effective one.
Bale is very good, while Harron directs wonderfully. She gets every scene exactly the way it should be. She knows Patrick has to have everything perfectly. When he doesn’t like what he sees, well, you can pretty much guess what happens. There is also another scene that makes Bateman, Bateman. He does his stomach exercises during which “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” plays on a TV.