MOTW: "American Psycho" Review

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A wealthy New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he escalates deeper into his illogical, gratuitous fantasies. Starring Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny and Jared Leto.
3.5

MOTW: "American Psycho" Review

-- Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: Apr. 14, 2000
Directed by: Mary Harron
Genre: Crime/Drama

Bret Easton Ellis pens tales that people loves. As the author of "Less Than Zero" and "The Rules of Attraction," he watched his novels twisted to fit the needs of film viewers. But with "American Psycho," the author witnessed one of his books getting the big-screen treatment without sacrificing the tone of the story.

"American Psycho" takes place in the go-go 1980s, when corporate executives weren't above keeping prostitutes on their speed dials and heading into the bathroom to do drugs in the middle of work. The film follows Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale, "The Dark Knight Rises"), a man who seems like just another younger executive until the lights do down. While he does his work every day, jokes around with men at work, and buys the most expensive items he can find, he also harbors a dark secret life as a serial killer.

"American Psycho" is such a dark story that the Motion Picture Association of America originally gave the film a NC-17 rating. Director Mary Harron was forced to cut significant scenes from the film to obtain a better rating. Though several scenes wound up on the cutting room floor, it's still an extremely dark film with some unsettling scenes.

Bale is the face behind the dark moments in the film. Watching him in the film, it's hard to imagine anyone else playing the role, but he wasn't the first choice. An early draft of the film made its rounds across Hollywood with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to the role. It's almost impossible to picture DiCaprio bringing the same darkness to the role as Bale does. The bland and cold look that crosses his face at times will send chills down the spines of those watching.

The interesting thing about Bale is that he can interject those dark scenes with a touch of comedy. Though the comedy is still dark, it helps to lighten up a few moments in the film. One of the best scenes involves Bateman and Paul (Jared Leto, "Fight Club"). After slipping him a drugged drink, Bateman begins talking about the finer moments of Huey Lewis and The News. As Paul slips away, he briefly wonders why Bateman has a plastic on the floor. Bale, wearing a light grin on his face, dances around Leto, brandishing an axe and wearing a plastic jacket as he continues discussing music before killing the young man.

The supporting cast in the film is just as strong as Bale. Reese Witherspoon ("Walk the Line") plays Evelyn, his fiancée who knows nothing about his secret life, while Chloe Sevigny ("The Brown Bunny") plays his secretary and the only woman in his life that he shows any true concern for. The film also features stellar performances from Justin Theroux ("Wanderlust"), Josh Lucas ("A Beautiful Mind"), and Samantha Mathis ("Broken Arrow").

While Bale shares chemistry with many of his female co-stars, it's his on-screen relationship with Willem Dafoe that truly shines. As Detective Kimball, Dafoe's character is the only one who suspects that Bateman leads a double life. The two characters play an interesting game of cat-and-mouse that leads to some funny quips and one-liners. Bateman is constantly putting off the detective with comments, and in one memorable scene, he even leaves the detective behind, claiming he has a meeting with Cliff Huxtable.

"American Psycho" shows viewers that the real psychopath might be someone living next door or the man in the next cubicle. Though Bateman occasionally slips up with a comment that shows his darker side, he manages to hide it from those in his life. This is a man who will pop in a Genesis CD before killing someone, and a man who takes a break when spending time with a beautiful woman to stare at his own reflection in the mirror. The scariest thing about Bateman is that he could be anyone. Bateman isn't the stereotypical horror villain, lurking in the shadows and stalking young women. This villain is the type who brings home people he knows, and doesn't spend too much time covering his tracks.

Bale struts through the film like he owns it, and the other actors are smart enough to sit back and let him run the film. His portrayal of Patrick Bateman is far scarier than any slasher running through the woods and killing teens with a knife. "American Psycho" offers an unflinching look at the life of one man who can kill someone without blinking an eye, and still make it in time for lunch. Those who watch the film just might find themselves tracking down a copy of the original book later.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5