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American Psycho (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 8, 2020

American Psycho

American Psycho


Starring Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, Bill Sage, Chloe Sevigny, Cara Seymour, Justin Theroux, Guinevere Turner and Reese Witherspoon.

Screenplay by Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner.

Directed by Mary Harron.

Distributed by Lion’s Gate Pictures.  Rated R.  103 minutes.

It is rare that a book be so reviled upon release as Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho.

Women’s groups and religious groups decried the horrific cartoonish violence against women (missing the point, I guess, that the novel featured horrific cartoonish violence against everyone.)

Then people who actually read the book learned the true and scary crime that American Psycho perpetrated on the public.  Turns out, it was a truly wretchedly written book with long boring lists of consumer products periodically broken up by absurd murder scenes.

Ellis has protested for years that his book has gotten a bad rap.  He said it was actually a satire on cutthroat 80s corporate greed.

This has always been a flimsy argument (isn’t a satire supposed to be funny?) but this film version directed by Mary Herron (I Shot Andy Warhol) actually does the neat job of almost redeeming the source material… by treating it just in that way.

The film version, by keeping the violence mostly offscreen and putting the soulless corporate bravado front and center starts out as a relatively clever take on Reagonomics. Christian Bale is terrific as a numbed soulless corporate raider who spends his down time as a serial killer.

The movie really loses the track in the needlessly surreal cop-out of an ending (is he really doing it, or is it just a fantasy?) Still, the film of American Psycho is much better than anyone had any reason to believe it could possibly be. (4/00)

Alex Diamond

Copyright © 2000 All rights reserved.  Posted: April 14, 2000.

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