American Psycho
"What matters here is what is real and what is the figment of a sick imagination."

The shock value of a yuppie serial killer is less immediate than the impact of complex mind games. What matters here is what is real and what is the figment of a sick imagination.

It is definitely a first person affair - Patrick Bateman's "confession". He is 27-years-old, one of many vice-presidents of a Wall Street broking firm, obsessive about personal hygiene and fitness, desperate for acceptance - as if he is not quite what he purports to be - a dedicated follower of fashion, a cold fish and a control freak. He has a fiancee and a mistress, both of whom he treats with disdain.

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Looking objectively, the film appears to be the case history of a man on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Looking subjectively, it chronicles acts of obscene brutality, usually against women, as if violent death is Bateman's drug of choice.

He considers himself the perfect specimen of human architecture and yet, at the same time, not there. His desire for invisibility conflicts with his need to be wearing a neater designer suit than anyone else and be able to reserve a table at the smartest restaurant with a single phone call.

The script makes use of Bret Easton Ellis's witty satire of the Eighties New York yuppie scene, with its snobbish misogynistic power plays, in which the print quality of a business card is as important as where to eat lunch, contrasting uncomfortably with the pornography of murder.

His colleagues consider Bateman lightweight, a non event, a hanger on. He considers himself inhuman, a sharp hitter, a connoisseur of popular music. His apartment has the warmth of a washed-down abattoir.

The film is frozen. Christain Bale is ice. The decadent undercurrent of life in the fast lane has a paranoid edge to it. Emotion is a woman's thing and therefore an embarrassment. If this is the future, you may want to get off.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Tales of a yuppie serial killer.
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Stephen Carty ****

Director: Mary Harron

Writer: Mary Harron, Guinevere Turner. Based on the book by Bret Easton Ellis

Starring: Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Samantha Mathis, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon

Year: 1999

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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