Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is wealthy, young, handsome and well educated. He possesses a circle of high society but shallow acquaintances, is engaged to the beautiful and vacuous Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon) and has passionate urges about booking meals at the finest of New York’s restaurants – and of course, to own the most luxurious of…business cards (one of the film’s best scenes).
“Look at that subtle colouring. The tasteful thickness. Oh my God. It even has a watermark.”
During the opening sequence, Patrick describes the material ways of his life, quintessentially the ultimate “American lifestyle” – and that’s when things start to go wrong. In order to fill in the void caused by the exacerbated nihilism of the 1980s, he finds a simple enough solution: to kill. “I have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust”, says our golden boy, before heading for a corporate Christmas party, complete with champagne-serving elves, reindeer antlers and a baby pig with a Santa Claus hat.
As his mask of sanity slips away, the yuppie reveals to be a competent, cold and rather hygienic serial killer. Exfoliating creams, fake tans, haute-couture suits, 1000 daily sit-ups and a luxurious apartment share the stage with tools from a horror B-movie: knives, axes, revolvers, chainsaws and – yes, even a nail gun.
Amidst all the bloodshed, the audience’s reaction is, at the very least, unusual. Don’t feel guilty if you start laughing during scenes such as the one where Patrick delivers a memorable monologue about his interpretation of “Hip to be square” by Huey Lewis and the News, while his co-worker-come-victim (Jared Leto) innocently awaits for an axing in the sofa.
“Do you like Huey Lewis and The News?”
That’s just it – if you look carefully, you’ll see that American Psycho could just as well be a comedy. “My mother has seen it (…) she was crying with laughter”, said Bale. Dark humour is used in an intelligent, analytical and insightful manner. Director Mary Harron stated “ There are so many films that are much more violent; Se7en and 8MM never attracted the same kind of outrage”.
In fact, the film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s controversial book is far less violent than the book itself, as Harron spends no time showing the intricacies and physical effects of Bateman’s murders. However, this wasn’t enough to calm down the Motion Picture Association of America, which complained particularly about a scene involving a threesome between the killer and two prostitutes – and the best thing is that this scene is far funnier than it is spicy. Violence – sure; sex – no way! What happens in American Psycho – as it did in Fight Club – is that people tend to judge a film without attempting to fully comprehend it. Interestingly, gratuitous violence in films doesn’t seem to be as contentious; however, if they bring with them reflection or social critic, that tends to get ignored. Both films come to us as a warning; a caution of what mindless consumerism can bring to one’s mind. The perfect image of the American dream being torn apart.
“I guess you could say I just want to have a meaningful relationship with someone special”
American Psycho is a healthy blend of sarcasm and irony with violence topping. An exotic and unique flavour that you should try this Christmas…even if you might get indigestion.