In Theatre : April 14, 2000
Director(s): Mary Harron
The Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho, a dark, violent satire of the “me” culture of Ronald Reagan’s 1980s, is certainly one of the most controversial books of the ’90s, and that notoriety fueled its bestseller status.
This smart, savvy adaptation by Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol) may be able to ride the crest of the notoriety; prior to the film’s release, Harron fought a ratings battle (ironically, for depictions of sex rather than violence), but at the time the director stated, “We’re rescuing [the book] from its own bad reputation.”
Harron and co-screenwriter Guinevere Turner (Go Fish) overcome many of the objections of Ellis’s novel by keeping the most extreme violence offscreen (sometimes just barely), suggesting the reign of terror of yuppie killer Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) with splashes of blood and personal souvenirs. Bale is razor sharp as the blank corporate drone, a preening tiger in designer suits whose speaking voice is part salesman, part self-help guru, and completely artificial.
Carrying himself with the poised confidence of a male model, he spends his days in a numbing world of status-symbol one-upmanship and soul-sapping small talk, but breaks out at night with smirking explosions of homicide, accomplished with the fastidious care of a hopeless obsessive.