Directed by Mary Harron
American Psycho is a tough movie to categorize. It’s not really a horror movie, or a drama, or a dark comedy, but it exhibits many traits of all three genres. It makes for an interesting movie to say the least, but unfortunately it’s a bit soulless so it ends up being less than it could be. The soulless nature of the film is a reflection of its main character though, and perfectly portrays the 1980s culture of narcissism and the “dog eat dog” mentality of corporate America. This element is arguably a great strength, despite my personal dislike of it, and helps director Mary Harron do exactly what she sets out to do when making the film.
Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman, Wall Street exec and all-around yuppie stereotype. He’s ultra-narcissistic and self-serving and Bale plays the role convincingly and with ease. The entire supporting cast is great as well, but as Bale hogs up most of the runtime, they are all relegated to fairly minor parts, so don’t get too excited looking at the cast list. Willem Dafoe is only in three or four short scenes, for instance. This is completely Bale’s film and he proves here why he has become the star he is today. Those who don’t generally care for his performances may not be won over with his work here, but he does craft a career-defining role that never feels forced or unnatural. I’ve always felt that Bale possessed something of a psychotic nature so he’s a good fit in the film, but maybe I’m just buying into his wonderful method acting in this and the Nolan Batman films.
I am very impressed by Harron’s ability to make a film, and quite surprised that she has not made more. American Psycho is only her second of three films so far, and regardless of any problems I had with the film overall, it is impressive. I look forward to watching her others and hopefully they are as well made as this was. She had some help with the film’s look from Polish cinematographer Andrzej Sekuła, who also shot Reservoir Dogs & Pulp Fiction among others. The film’s shots are classy and well-defined and evoke cinema of years past. Many times through the film I felt like I was watching a movie made in the late 1980s and it is a testament to the filmmakers that their ruse worked so well. The meticulous clothing and hairstyles with mixed pastel backgrounds sell the era almost instantly and better than most other films that have tried.