“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,” Patrick Bateman says in American Psycho. “Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don’t know why. My nightly blood lust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.”
Man, did it ever slip…
American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron and based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name, debuted at the Sundance film festival in January of 2000, but finally made its way to a larger audience on April 14, 2000.
It was a game-changer of sorts. Darkly funny to the point of being uncomfortable, audiences were utterly charmed by Christian Bale’s performance as obsessive psychopath Patrick Bateman, who took the excessive need to be the best in the world of 80s investment bankers to a whole new level.
Everything in Patrick’s life is perfectly curated and cultivated from his contacts to his business cards to the perfect, perky blonde fiance with exactly the right social status. And yet, there’s another side to Patrick. The side that doesn’t only want and need to kill, but who layers cruelty and torture in the mix, all set to the sounds of Whitney Houston, Genesis and Huey Lewis and the News.
Audiences and critics alike became wrapped up in Patrick’s story. Were the events really happening? Was he delusional? Was it some mixture of the two?
Harron’s direction in American Psycho was immaculate. She seemingly gave her actors permission to be unlikable, and they relished that gift. No one in this film is a good person. They’re all flawed, bitter, angry, and self-absorbed. The only difference between them and Patrick is that Patrick acts out on his aggression.
He doesn’t smear someone’s reputation; he smears their blood across the walls.
For his part, Bale seemed to totally embrace the role of Bateman. He was beautiful and deadly and the image of him running naked down a hallway with a chainsaw is–as it should be–forever burned into our memories.
What worked in American Psycho in 2000, still works in 2020. You can totally watch it on a surface level and enjoy a a film about a serial killing investment banker who loves pop music, but you can also scratch beneath the surface and take in the underlying themes which opens up a whole new realm of discussion.
The choice is ultimately yours.
If you haven’t seen American Psycho in a while, now is the perfect time to revisit it. It’s available to rent on Redbox, Google Play, Fandango Now, Amazon, and Vudu.
Take a look at the trailer below; I’d watch with you, but I have to return some video tapes.