Featuring: Christian “Batman Begins” Bale , Willem “Spider-Man” Dafoe , Jared “Suicide Squad” Leto
Director: Mary “I Shot Andy Warhol” Harron
Writers: Mary “I Shot Andy Warhol” Harron , Guinevere “BloodRayne” Turner
Sequel: American Psycho 2
Oh my Elder Gods, this movie. Apologies for taking yet another detour from the World Tour de Farce, but this month marks the 15th anniversary of the release of American Psycho. I fucking love American Psycho. A decade-and-a-half ago, 4 months into a long distance relationship with this evil 17 year old from a far away land (I was only 18, so put down your torches), my Evil Dead Bride-to-Be and yours truly had been highly anticipating this amazing looking cerebral slasher flick summation of the infamous ‘80s materialism obsession. In those tormenting times when we could only see each other once a month (she was my period and her period was, well, her period), we had to plan rest breaks in our coital merrymaking, so going to the movies would help prevent us from injuring ourselves. This is the first such feature from that time that I can do a proper review for, so…here it is!
I didn’t read American Psycho until after seeing the movie, so I was in no way ahead of the curve on this one. The only inkling I’d even had of the subject was the 1997 Misfits album of the same name (fuck you Fallout Boy, you shunty ass-butts!), which was the first release sans Danzig and, thus, the last Misfits album I’d ever listen to. My Evil Dead Mother-In-Law had read the dark and twisted tale by Bret Easton Ellis, but couldn’t finish it after the infamous rat chapter…which meant I had to see what the fuss was aboot. I was nonplussed by the graphic descriptions of genital mutilation, but I’m inured to that kinda shit anyway. I have no soul. Unless you show me those videos of animals from different species playing around like friends. Those hit me in the joy buzzer. I thought Ellis’ writing was fantastic though! Not an opinion I deja vued when I tried to read Less Than Zero, but that might’ve just been due to a disdain for spoiled dickbag preppie college kids.
Hey! This isn’t a friggin’ stupid book club, damn it! This is a friggin’ stupid movie review site, damn it! Get on with it, damn it!
The time is 1987. The place is Wall Street. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is obsessed with his job at the firm of Pierce & Pierce. Actually, no, he’s not. He doesn’t do a lick of “work” throughout the entire running time of this movie! Sure, he spends hours each day occupying his office space (“Somebody stole my stapler…”), but all he actually does is dress down his secretary, do the New York Times crossword (very poorly), and doodle in his date book. No, Patty’s true obsession is having the best clothes, the smoothest skin, the slightly-better-than-his-peer’s haircut, the deepest understanding of ‘80s pop music, eating at the upperest crust restaurants in New York City and wanting women to ask him what he does for a living so he has an excuse to brag. He’s the anthropomorphizing of the “gimme gimme” decade, and he’s climbing to the top of the high society food chain, populated by his fellow worshippers at the alter of the almighty dollar (AKA “the alighty ollar”). In the land of yuppie royalty, he’s Claudius, plotting his ascension through the disposal of those that stand in his way, dreaming of the day he’ll sit in his throne atop a pile of corpses in Armani suits, their blood smeared Rolexi glinting in the golden beams of his all consuming ego. How all-consuming? He’s the kind of guy who’ll go balls deep in a pair of $500/hr call girls, then just spend the whole time checking himself out in the mirror.
That wasn’t a joke.
When the sun goes does down, this wolf of Wall Street goes full lycanthrope (figuratively), as his world of mergers and acquisitions turns into a waking nightmare of murders and executions. Beneath his Gordon Gecko exterior lurks a bloodthirsty Norman Bates, man! Get it? “Bates, man”? Bateman? Well, if you haven’t picked up on it yet, don’t over grind those gears in your noggin. I wouldn’t want your ears to start throwin’ sparks and risk catching my collection of oily rags aflame. The smoke alarms are all dead because I never replaced the batteries after my last “let’s put 9 volts on our tongues!” party, and I’ve yet to flush the ichor out of the sprinklers following that vampire Ishtar-Easter rave I rented out The Tomb for a few weeks ago. I know, vampire raves are so ’99, but who am I to say no to a dance floor full of topless wanna-be Bathorys showered in gore? Exactly…and for no reason at all, now I can’t imagine the name “Bathory” without it being shouted in the manner of Metallica’s “Battery”.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Bath-o-ry. I mean, oh yeah, Bateman.
At his core, Patrick Bateman is a man that wants to fit in and be liked by his associates, so he gives up any sense of self-identity in his efforts to do so. He appreciates “Hip to Be Square” because of its message of the pleasures of conformity, further convincing himself that being a faceless clone is the way to go. We’ve all felt that need to be accepted by a group at one time or another. They used to make socially conscious scare films about it in the ’50s, warning kids not to join gangs and break windows just because they want to be popular, instead recommending they volunteer at the retirement home or get their heads blown off in the Army instead. For me, the need to fit in is past tense, because once I realized humanity is mostly refuse not worth the gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate needed to napalm it into oblivion (“Hello, oblivion!”), my desire to fit in died faster than a fetus on a coat hanger. Unfortunately for Pat, he lives in a world of sociopaths. They’re all like mannequins: interchangeable nothing entities that are judged solely on the things they wear and the places they’re seen. Every sentence of his narration, Pat name-drops some highbrow product or exclusive restaurant because he has to constantly tell you (and himself) about how great the life he struggles to maintain is. That grappling to keep his mask of normalcy in place is worth not being who he really is…not that he’d probably know who that is at this point. Even his relationships with his girlfriend Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon) and his mistress Courtney (Samantha Mathis) are equally as hollow – socialite Ev is just there to up Pat’s status, while Courtney’s just a Xanax Xombie vessel for him to do a pump & dump into when he feels like it. As he himself tells us, he has no emotions but greed and disgust. Hell, following a scene where he can barely contain his impotent rage over how everyone else has a better business card than he does (we’re the only ones who realize they’re all the same), he stabs a homeless man (Reg “Marcus from Airheads!” Cathey) to death, then stomps the guy’s dog. It’s both horrific and pathetic.
There may be hope for Bater’s salvation in his previously alluded to secretary Jean (Chloe Sevigny), who seems to see something worthwhile in Patrick. Maybe she’s just naive, or maybe her innocence and her separation from the yuppie social life is what’s appealing about her. Whatever the case, Patrick can’t bring himself to kill her…though he comes realllllly close on a date before sending her home. Like, “nail gun to the back of her head for almost getting sorbet on his coffee table” close. Instead, our hero(?) opts to vent his urges on more deserving fare – his lady friend Elizabeth (Guinevere Turner – the screenplay’s co-writer!) and a hooker (Cara Seymour), both of whom can be excused. We all have friends we’d like to decapitate sooner or later, after all. As for the hooker, she had a sleepover with Patrick prior that ended with her going to an emergency room, in need of some reconstructive surgery (use your imagination) and fearing for her life. But when he comes back to her corner and flashes a wad of cash? She hops into the limo and goes home with him for round 2! You know how important money will be to you if you’re not alive to spend it? NOT AT ALL. It’s not fucking rocket surgery! Just another testament to how little some people value everything else in the face of their green paper god.
Speaking of, the absurdity of the 1% portrayed here is hilarious. Business cards (more later), cuisine that sounds like something people in an alternate dimension from a “Twilight Zone” episode would eat, those Zack Morris cells that make military field phones from ‘Nam look more convenient, and CD players from a time when only the five richest kings of Europe could afford them. Those last two have probably already been the subject of one of those dumbass videos where teenagers from today look at them like 4 year-olds given a particle accelerator. “Durrrrr! Old things are confusing! I have no cognizance of things existing prior to my birth!” BLART!
Throughout his blood soaked escapades, the only Bateman victim that anyone gives a fuck about is his high-profile rival at P&P, Paul Allen (Jared Leto). Infuriated that Paul’s able to get reservations at Dorsia (apparently it’s yuppie El Dorado), his constant mistaking of Patrick for fellow P&P cookie-cutter clone Marcus Halberstram and his business card being so much better than Pat’s to the point of emasculation (Bale’s performance here is scary good). He plots to take the guy out to a shithole restaurant (no risk of peer witnesses), get him drunk, then invite him back to his place to listen to some Huey Lewis, while our dapper death dealer expunges the finer points of The News and disposes of Paul’s need for, well, anything that involves a head. It’s here, and in some similar scenes later, where I start to think that Patrick missed his calling as a music critic…or he just spends way too much time on the shitter reading reviews in “Rolling Stone”. Either way, he butchers his associate with an axe while shouting, “Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you fucking stupid bastard!”.
Despite doing his best to cover up the casual slaughter (by taking measures to make it seem Paul had to make a last minute trip to London), Allen’s girlfriend Meredith still reports him missing. It’s not long before NYPD Detective Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe) follows a trail of breadcrumbs to the office door of one Master Bateman (*wink*wink*).
Kimball is a great performance by Dafoe, not only because the guy’s a top notch thespian (insert cliched joke about how “thespian” sounds kinda like “lesbian” here), but because Mary Harron had him read his lines in 3 different contexts – Kimball thinking Bateman was innocent, thinking he might’ve done it, and thinking he was guilty as OJ. The three sets of takes were then chopped up and edited together as such that audiences couldn’t read which way he was leaning. The first time I saw this, I thought it might’ve just been unbalanced acting on Dafoe’s part, looking to pick up a paycheck and get home in time to watch “Wheel of Fortune” while he fucked a TV dinner. When I learned the truth, it made a lot more sense. It’s a great reflection of Patrick’s paranoid perception of their exchanges, as you see our titular psycho start to sweat and panic just shy of becoming that nervous guy in cartoons who pulls on his collar so hard that his neck turns an acute angle.
According to Kimball, several people in Bateman’s social circle commented on how they’d seen or spoken to Paul while he’s been in London. The first time I saw this, I thought that Patrick had just fantasized about all of the terrible things he’d done and there was never any actual bloodshed. Having seen it several times since, I’m convinced that the murders really did happen, only nobody noticed because they all live in a constant state of head-up-their-own-ass-ity. Paul Allen’s identity is actually questioned in several scenes, as Patrick’s companions mistake one person or another for Allen. Once again, an attestation to the sameness of every a-hole on the stretch between Broadway and South. There’s also the possibility that Patty himself may be the one suffering a case of mistaken identity, but if that were the case, Paul’s girlfriend probably wouldn’t have reported him missing.
Amidst all this, there are two great scenes that revolve around the bizarre business card obsession these maniacs have. The first is the previously mentioned exchange of Allen “winning” the dick measuring contest of who has the better card amid his fellow Piercers. The second involves Courtney’s fiance Luis (Matt Ross, looking like the bastard spawn of Lyle Lovett and Pippi Longstocking), as he tempts Bateman’s ire at lunch by nonchalantly showing everyone his new card, whose “perfection” pushes Pat over the edge faster than Thelma and Louise in a ’66 Thunderbird. When our lunatic tries to strangle Luis in the men’s room after, Luis thinks Patty’s just being aggressively flirtatious and responds by making passionate mouth foreplay with the murderer’s hand! The resulting confusion and revulsion from Bate-and-switch is hilarious, but rather than continue with what would be a hate crime by today’s standards (or “AIDS prevention” by the medieval logic of the Reagan era), Pat washes his gloves and leaves the restaurant in a huff, citing his usual excuse of needing to “return some videotapes”. Easy money says it’s porn or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, since that seems to be all he ever watches. Still my favorite way to say goodbye to people, even years after that sentence no longer means anything.
Eventually, Patrick finally just loses it and tosses his metaphorical mask of sanity into the nearest metaphorical toilet. He goes on a rampage, gunning random strangers down left and right. His body count includes an old lady, a doorman, a janitor and several policemen before he finally escapes. Despite evading capture, he picks up a phone and calls Howard, his lawyer, then leaves a confession on the ambulance chaser’s answering machine about all of the atrocities he’s committed (most of which didn’t make it onscreen)! The next morning, after flipping out on Jean from a payphone, Patrick meets his cohorts like he does every day, as if NOTHING HAPPENED. Here he runs into Howie, and their confrontation only results in a case of mistaken identity, where Patrick’s advocate confuses him for someone else entirely and thinks the whole phone message was a joke! He cites Bateman as being too spineless and dorky to ever pull off something like a killing spree! As Patrick says himself, “this confession has meant nothing”, and it’s then that our antagonistic protagonist realizes there’s no escape from the numb and pointless existence he’s tried so hard to be a part of. You’d almost feel sorry for the guy if he hadn’t tried to feed a stray cat to an ATM machine…
You know what, I’m just gonna post his entire ending monologue here because just saying “this confession has meant nothing” doesn’t do it a lick of justice… also, “Lick of Justice” sounds like an all oral fetish porn where everyone’s dressed in police uniforms and judges’ robes.
“There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it I have now surpassed. My pain is constant and sharp, and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact, I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one to escape. But even after admitting this, there is no catharsis; my punishment continues to elude me, and I gain no deeper knowledge of myself. No new knowledge can be extracted from my telling. This confession has meant nothing.”
Getting American Psycho made is your typical tale of a train derailment to Clusterfuck City. Harron left the project when Lions Gate insisted on having Leo DiCaprio star (Lions Gate? Leo DiCaprio? CONSPIRACY!) rather than her original pick of Bale, and they subsequently brought in Oliver Stone to replace her. Stone wanted James Woods to play Kimball, Cameron Diaz as Evelyn, and Elizabeth Berkley as Courtney. But, with Stone’s budget going gaga and Leo leaving to make The Beach instead, Harron and Bale were brought back to make the cheaper (and likely better) film. When it was originally optioned for the cinematic treatment WAY back in ’91, Ellis was actually set to adapt the screenplay himself, Johnny Depp was eyed to play Batey, and Tomb hero Stuart “Re-Animator” Gordon was set to direct! The man who gave life to celluloid Herbert West wanted to stick as closely to the book as possible (which would’ve popped the flick an ‘X’ rating) and planned to shoot the whole shebang in black & white. When that attempt died a painful death, David “Scanners” Cronenberg was pegged to man the camera for a second effort with none other than Brad Pitt lacing up Patrick’s Ferragamos! I wouldn’t ask for either of these as an alternative to Herron and Bale’s final product, but Set DAMN would I love to have both of those version as companion pieces! When CERN finally figures out how to tear open dimensional gateway vaginas into alternate realities, somebody bring me back the Gordon and Cronenberg versions of American Psycho! I’ll even cover the gas money, or boson money, or whatever you need me to pay you! It can be my birthday and Cthulhumas presents for the rest of my life! JUST MAKE THEM HAPPEN!
Anyway, the movie we did get is pretty fucking great! It doesn’t delve too deeply into the more graphic depictions of violence portrayed in the book, but selling an NC-17 movie is near impossible if you hope to make any kind of profit on it. That’s fine by me though, because I’d rather experience the beautiful monster we’re given if it has to be at the expense of not seeing a woman’s cunt torn up by a giant sewer rat who hollows out her pelvis to make a nest. Yes, that happens in the book…or something like it. I don’t know, it’s been 15 years. Fuck off. A friend of mine recently started reading it and complained that all she’s seen so far is some guy talking about designer clothing for 20 pages. I don’t want to spoil the nightmarish “Marquis de Sade on coke” stuff for her, but I may need to before she loses all interest. Now, about that movie…
Harron’s direction is superb. From the illusory pouring of raspberry sauce that the audience initially may mistake for blood, to Bateman’s opening monologue/morning routine going directly into a straight-out-of-an-’80s-movie shot of the NYC skyline serenaded by “Walking On Sunshine”, you know the next hour and a half are going to be damn weirder than your average slasher flick, and maybe, just maybe, more fucking magical than a unicorn & pegasi orgy. The orchestral music is great, and reminds the viewer of the classic stringed tunes of the Psycho soundtrack…or, to a much lesser extent, Richard Band’s mostly copyright-infringing Re-Animator score. Likely not an accident, I’m sure…the Psycho connection, I mean, not Richard Band being a rip-off artist like his brother Charles.
The visual composition of the scenes are so beautifully arranged too, and I’m not the type of digital movie griper to bring attention to artsy shit like that very often. Osiris, it’s all just so slick and pretty. That business card showdown! The sounds of unsheathing swords were used for the guys’ pulling their “weapons” from their holders, and it’s all shot so stuffed to the gills with tension that you’re just waiting for Patrick to start stabbing everyone in the eyes with a letter opener! The death of Christie the hooker is another one of the movie’s iconic highlights, as we’re given the nightmarish vision of a bloody and naked Bates, wearing nothing but sneakers and wielding a chainsaw almost as deadly as the look of complete insanity he’s got on his face. He chases the courtesan through a poorly lit hallway before planting the steely teeth of hungry death into her insides like someone drilling for oil. You know that part in the second episode of Netflix’s “Daredevil” with the bad guy on the stairwell and the fire extinguisher? All I could think of when watching that was Bateman + chainsaw + gravity = dead hooker.
The writing is also top-notch and packed with so much quotable goodness! From dark, insightful, self-actualizations of horrific (in)human nature, to trivia about pop stars and serial killers, to shit that’s just fun to shout at people, there’s something for everyone! Patrick’s running narration helps keep the rhythm of the book and is a constant reminder that this story is Patrick’s and no one else’s – just the way he’d want it. Bale puts on a career making performance. Literally. Despite being told by everyone that playing a scum-ass misogynist serial killer would be the premature burial of his future in Hollywood, he went on to be, well, Batman among other things! Speaking of, was it weird or straight up providence that Elizabeth calls Patrick “Batman” in the book, and the guy who would play Bates in the movie would go on to play fucking Batman in the Chris Nolan trilogy!? And further crazy dicks? Christian Bale’s character brutally murders Jared Leto’s character here. Leto is going to play the Caped Crusader’s jolly nemesis The Joker in the four-color feature, Suicide Squad next year. So, we get to watch Batman ax the Joker to death. Also, for no reason, Willem Dafoe played The Green Goblin in Spider-Man. For further no reason, Reg Cathey will be playing Sue and Johnny’s father, in this summer’s Fantastic Four re-boot… or, if you’re a shit lord in 20th Century Fox’s marketing department, Fant4stic. A testament to how comic books have become a legitimate movie genre over the last 15 years, or just proof that everybody needs to pay their bills and funnybook films are the way to go? Either way, fun facts for my fellow fanboys/girls.
So, yeah, Christian Bale brings Bateman to life. Like Vic Frankenstein with a lightning rod and open access to a cemetery. And after hearing about the other actors that could have played him, I can’t picture anyone other than Bale being Bateman. His line delivery. His facial expressions. The way he inserts violent threats into casual conversation. The way he fake fucks two women while winking at the camcorder and pointing at himself in the mirror. All of it. There were a pair of scenes that I was taken out of the magic by my nose hairs, though. I know PB’s confessions at the end are SUPPOSED to be broken and manic, but I feel Bale goes a little too far off the rails and develops a hankering for the distinct taste of scenery. Not nearly as off-putting as the infamous Batman “tonsils in a rock tumbler” voice (which Bale has made it a point to place the blame for squarely on Nolan), but it does verge on being goofy. Other than that, though, I’m gonna reach into my cliché cookie (like a fortune cookie, just stuffed with cliches) and pull out…“tour de force performance”. Sure. That works. Go with it.
Wanna know more about the Bateman family tree? Check out The Rules of Attraction. Dawson Van Der Beek plays Patrick’s little brother Sean. It’s not as good as American Psycho, but it’s still a solid flick. Also, there’s no serial killing, so its lack of horror/sci-fi/fantasy/action kinda disqualifies it from getting its own episode and thus I won’t be reviewing it. Sorry kids, sometimes you gotta watch movies yourselves.
I’m just a happy camper, rockin’ n’ rollin’, but I gotta return some videotapes. My copy of Full House of 1000 Corpses was due back at Blockbuster in 2007, so it’s time to flatline this episode! You live in fear for the day I finally review American Psycho 2, and we’ll meet back here next time for The Tomb 2.0’s big 50th episode celebration! Which movie will it be? You’ll have to wait and see. Until then, watch this video. If it had a sentient brain and a Social Security Number, I’d adopt it. Later, mutilators!
Gah! This guy looks like a Muppet! Not even a licensed Muppet! He looks like a Made In China Muppet! He’s a Murpitt!
The Hel? Is this The Lone Ranger training for a marathon? Did somebody switch reels/discs/.avis on me?!
See? I knew I wasn’t the only adult who still covers the hairless parts of their body in glue and tries to peel it off in the largest sections possible. I see Patrick’s mastered the “Elmer’s Death Mask”. Kudos to you, Sir.
“I’m sorry, Reese, but I just didn’t think Sweet Home Alabama was very good. No… you know what? It was GARBAGE! It was utter pandering TRASH and I HATE YOU!”
What’s with that hair?! Did he steal it from the set of Heartbeeps? Holy shit… I just made a Heartbeeps reference… I’ll see myself out before everybody starts awkwardly asking what the fuck that is. I was never here.
Ah, the ’80s. When porn wasn’t just parodies of popular TV shows or innuendo titles. When your movie’s called “Inside Lydia’s Ass”, you know what you’re getting.
I applaud Bateman’s patience. I’d probably lose it if the bastard son of Carrot Top and Pee Wee Herman started fondling my pocket square.
This! Showing someone THIS is enough to get your face split open with an ax! Wall Street was fucking Fury Road 30 years ago!
“I turned down every role that came my way because I wanted to keep my schedule open for Airheads 2, and without any work, I ended up here. Adam Sandler has been telling me since 1995 that he was gonna produce Airheads 2! HE PROMISED ME! He told me there’s a script and everything, they’re just tweaking it and I need to hold out a few more weeks! I’m starting to doubt him…”
“Why the slicker? Are you kidding?! When the ladies see this hi-fi setup, there’s going to be a *SPLOOSH* tsunami coming my way!”
“Sorry for my appearance, but you know what they say: a real man loves his woman every day of the month! Haha!”
Is he making reservations at a restaurant, or calling in an air strike?! I wish cell phones were still that big though. I guarantee I wouldn’t have to listen to every asshole at the supermarket shouting their personal conversations if they had to lug one of those monsters around.
Bateman was 25 years ahead of the curve with recording adorable cat antics. Unfortunately, he taped over all of them with snuff films before YouTube would be invented.
“Hey! Does that picture frame look crooked to you? You know what, never mind. I probably should’ve waited till later. Damn coke… but seriously, is it just me or is that fucking frame, like, REALLY crooked?! IT GETS MORE CROOKED THE LONGER I LOOK AT IT! Alright, I’m sorry, but I can’t finish this till I fix that damn frame!”
Did you know Patrick Bateman invented the FlowBee? His was called the BloodFlowBee though… also, it killed you… there were a LOT of lawsuits. It bankrupted him.
“So, can I rely on you to help me with my little spider infestation?”
“Of course, provided you can help me get the bats out of my belfry… permanently! Hahahahahahaha!…. We are talking about teaming-up to kill each others’ nemesi, right?”
“I know I said that whole ‘real men’ comment earlier, but COME ON! When you sneeze it’s like Evil Dead 2 in here! I can’t keep buying new Egyptian cotton sheets EVERY MONTH!”
In Miami, you learn not to look up. Every time you do, THAT is what’s staring back at you from EVERY fire escape. Fucking Florida.
“And THIS is for all the times you insisted on cornering me in the elevator and forced me to make small talk with you! I don’t CARE about your FUCKING grandchildren getting their FUCKING braces off!”
“No… please… please… PLEASE STOP! I just… I just want the internet service… THE INTERNET SERVICE!… NO!… I don’t want 3 free months of 15 different Showtime channels!… no…. no…… NO!….. NOOOOO!…. PLEASE STOP!…. please….. please…. just…. please…. just stop….” *heavy sobbing sounds*
Anubis will return next time in
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