Review: American Psycho (2000)

Review: American Psycho (2000)

Director: Mary Harron

Writer: Mary Harron (screenplay), Bret Easton Ellis (novel)

Stars: Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Chloe Sevigny

American Psycho, Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ literary smash of 1991, is hilariously violent and shockingly satirical.  Early in the film, as the movie’s protagonist Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) rides in the back of a luxury town car with his fiancee Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon), she asks him why he stays in a job he professes to hate.  Bateman’s response, delivered with furious intensity by Christian Bale, perfectly encapsulates one of the film’s central theses:  “Because I want to fit in.”  This sentence’s last two words are delivered with withering severity, and this seems to show that beyond its indictment of toxic masculinity, this film shows us a creature shaped from the ground up in a world of excess, depravity, and most consequently, fear.

Bale’s performance, which for my money is the best of his exceptional career (so far), shows us a character who is at once the master of all he surveys and a frightened child locked in a tall tower.  The interplay between these aspects of Bateman’s character provides the grist for much of the drama in the film, as well as most of the comedy, which is endlessly hilarious.  In what has become the film’s most famous scene, the coworkers at Bateman’s place of work are showing their business cards to one another, and when Bateman asks to see Paul Allen’s card, he is unprepared for the effect it has on him.  “Look at that subtle off-white coloring, the tasteful thickness of it,” as Bale performs this inner monologue, his voice has an almost sexually dusky nature.  When he finishes analyzing this superior business card, Bateman is shaken by the sight of it, and recoils into himself so much so that one of his coworkers inquires whether he is okay.

In this scene, Harron shows us the true weakness at the heart of corporate culture, and displays the power of envious spite.  This structural bitterness first shows itself violently when Bateman (Bale) attacks Paul Allen (Jared Leto) with an axe, concluding his hilariously vain review of the album Sports by Huey Lewis and the News.  After this first swing of the axe, during which Bateman was victim of his own psychopathy, he continues to chop Paul as he expresses the true motivation behind his violence.  “Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you fucking stupid bastard!”  Lines like this, hilarious and pointed, exemplify what I feel is at the center of the film; that unjustly privileged men, elevated more by their pre-determined place in society than by effort or talent, are liable to become deranged when faced with the reality of their own inadequacy.

American Psycho, both the novel and the film, stand as bristling critique of American society.  As it comes to sex, Ellis’ novel exposes the the animalistic savagery inherit in male urges, and Harron’s film shows the way easy satisfaction of all desire can result in escalating aberrant behavior.  Beyond any broader social points the film makes, it cannot be denied that this movie, and Christian Bale’s star-affirming performance in it, are as entertaining and thought provoking as any film of their era.

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Review: American Psycho (2000)

My Case for Michael Shannon as Batman

I recently saw Midnight Special, and though overall it left me somewhat cold, I did come out of the theater confident in one assertion: Michael Shannon should be the next actor to play Batman.  I say this because more than any other actor who’s played this iconic role, I believe Shannon has the perfect combination of an intimidating aspect, all-consuming passion, and absolute insanity that I’ve come to believe the role requires.  Because of this I believe that Shannon is by far the best choice to take the role of Batman, and that he could find new dimensions of character in Gotham City’s vigilant guardian.

For the straight-faced intimidating stare Batman uses when he shakes down criminals, look to Nelson Van Alden, Shannon’s character on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.  As Van Alden, Shannon brings an impenetrable gloominess and a clear-eyed certainty, both of which I think would be perfect for the caped crusader.  I envision Shannon in the cape and the mask beating a few street toughs silently, wordlessly and mercilessly, giving them all nightmares with his permanently stone faced glower.  He also would not need to modulate his voice (like Bale’s annoying rasp), as his bass mumble evokes the ultimate humorless authority figure.

I feel that Shannon would animate the untrusting, secretive and obsessive nature of Bruce Wayne.  Given Shannon’s wonderful performance in Jeff Nichols Take Shelter, wherein he plays a man consumed by terrifying nightmares and apocalyptic hallucinations.  As the film goes on, it is plainly evident in Shannon’s face that his character has an increasingly tenuous grasp on reality, and as this grasp evaporates he becomes more wide-eyed and desperate with each scene.  I believe Shannon would do well to bring these elements of inner torment and social disconnection to Bruce Wayne, perhaps ruling over board meetings by pounding on surfaces with unnerving intensity.

Bruce Wayne is not a well man, and Michael Shannon could portray this with effortless ease.  William Friedkin’s stellar nightmare Bug is a prime example of Shannon’s ability to play unhinged.  The physicality Shannon portrays in Bug is dangerous and manic, such as I believe has been lacking in previous portrayals of Gotham’s most eccentric citizen.

My Case for Michael Shannon as Batman