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)

Movie Review: Avengement

Avengement (2019)

Director: Jesse V. Johnson

Writer: Jesse V. Johnson

Stars: Scott Adkins, Craig Fairbrass, Thomas Turgoose

Streaming on Netflix (as of 10/1/2019)

Avengement, the 2019 crime thriller written and directed by former stuntman Jesse V. Johnson, is brutally violent, swiftly plotted, and magnificently entertaining.  At only four minutes in, the movie’s star Scott Adkins, himself a former stuntman and competitive martial artist, dispatches a pub’s two doormen quickly and without warning.  Incidents of savagery such as this occur in nearly every scene in the film, and while this does appeal particularly to action junkies such as I, the excellent script and star-affirming performance of its lead correspond to transform what would be a cheap and gritty B-movie into a genuinely compelling thrill ride.

The film follows Cain Burgess (Adkins), a character who, through circumstances outside of his control, has become an animal.  His face at the beginning of the movie is covered in burn scars, he has a gash in his cheek and he has silver teeth.  All of these things are the consequence of injuries the viewer watches him sustain in one of the movie’s many flashback sequences.  In the hands of a less confident director, this backwards form of story construction might have rendered the film a narrative mess, but Johnson holds the structure together with aplomb, trusting that his star can keep an audience engrossed without exhausting them.

His star and frequent collaborator Scott Adkins holds the film together with an intense, seething performance.  We see as the movie goes along how Cain (Adkins) was transformed from a powerful yet gentle street tough into a hardened psychopath, and each phase of this evolution makes perfect sense.  The story adheres to a structure wherein it transfers intermittently among three periods of time, which could potentially become confusing, but Johnson does a remarkable job of allowing the narrative to direct its own path.  Both Johnson and Adkins grew up in densely populated, urban sectors of England, and their experience with the seedier characters and settings clothes their film in authenticity.

Despite the characters, language and violence which all seem to my American ears genuine, there is no denying that Avengement is a fantasy.  This fantasy is an undeniably brutal, pessimistic one, which allows the filmmakers to patch together some less-than stellar supporting performances with shockingly barbaric violence.  Overall, though I think that Adkins’ remarkable performance gives this bloody tableau a solid emotional footing, it’s primarily a grim, bloody good time in hell.

 

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Movie Review: Avengement

Really, No Comment 3

To rest among corpses fits, logically when it’s considered

through a Dickens lens, for we’re all dead anyway

especially now, finding life in the grit

smirking and chuckling like a reflex reaction,

ungirded with intent to punish and judge

worthy those that claimed a place, leaving non grata

bygone brothers and sisters, pitiable portions

of the landscape, we are born again

in a bizarro centerpiece, let the chips fall

for they may crush, and that’s what we want.

Really, No Comment 3

Poem: The Wartime

The battle was weeks of hell, baskets of mortar

dropped on a frozen rope, onto my friends trapped

with nothing to win, they are happy now

rendered headless, we chopped off what we could

to drop into the sea, we are war machine, screaming

merciless mantras, passing a chalice

boozy of humor, laughing with satan

at the suffering fireworks, burn the wound making

cauterized ruination, I fear sepsis

taking hold, but will die before its done.

 

Pandemonium marketplace setups

selling soldiers to the bidder, elevated not

though square dealing on the level

with rules to follow, and malice aforethought

you understand, for a known game is just

talk of death for traitors and spies

wearing suits, costuming a new hell

appearing as death in the mirror

again, the children are hungry

but nothing grows anymore period.

 

A cruel, merciless decision we made,

admittedly, to stand apart from fury

with sickly cowardice we turn away,

though we chastise ourselves and each other

for acting likewise, because flagellation feels

good when we use words, joy is diminishing

words we don’t like to use in public

but we still do, for wouldn’t you

if you had esteem waiting, but you don’t

because you only serve, like a lever.

 

Check marks, first thing is the first,

a nice fruity phosphate, Mountain Due

Condition Blue or something, tasting love

is sweet sunshine and comfort costs

money in peacetime, my arms rendered

useless but to pull a lever, push a plunger

off the edge, slipping into a dragon chase,

or maybe it’s a nightmare, but waking

in a box is a bad omen, I’ve heard.

 

Large in charge of the floor, big shot

all of a sudden, struggling still up against

a whiteboard colored in bullshit,

first buy the bonds, afterwards pay the piper

for the tolls that number sixteen

more than before, on the same street

all of a sudden, knowing there’s not a place

we could afford uptown, anyway

hunting a point out, precisely placed

because you might have just one chance.

 

Voltaire and Camus came together

to work on “All Quiet,” or whatever

it will be called, and directed by Dickens

with Gandhi producing, De Sade scripting

the tale of a lonely stable-boy in love

with a maiden of the conquered people,

but alas he is gutshot, and dies alone

in the dark, no dry eyes, best picture

contender at least, that’s for sure.

 

I feel like Django, dragging a coffin behind me

filled with my trespasses, and the yelping

victim wails that fell on deaf ears echo

in the night, haunting things I’ve done

rest in the unknown enemy’s moving tomb,

they would’ve done me as I did them,

but still they glare with hole eyes, sucking portals

sucking to a world of shit, so forever good night.

 

I wrote a book called “Push the Chips”

detailing my fall and rise, it was a whitewash

snow job poorly detailed emotional history,

just as devotees rise and shout praises

out of tune, paper away the detritus

pushing to next, and gearing up is the key

with a spiked helmet and chains,

you gotta mash the allies, tell no one

what you’ve done, it is a horror.

 

The movie’s have changed, and none remain

better then ever, though history clones are

all the rage bubbling, they disappoint

with cookie-cutter mechanics and terra cotta

characters, so open the door and pull ideas

off of the chaff pile, we will shield them

with complacency, I have to write

my new novel, the one to lift them up

by the heart, which is all there is.

 

The first time I attempted suicide

I woke up in the hospital, zippered

into my bed, joining rage and regret

in a blender, pushing pulse over again,

smearing pain and scrawling hate

on the wall, they started marking milestones

after a time, now not even a walker

with me, the sad kids get some hope.

 

This is my resignation not from chiefs

of executive office, in them a poison

growing from their heart through their pores,

making them seem soupy, and red

of brick and beet and tomato, but we know

what it really is, representing an ending

for everyone, I move to my forest cabin,

shut off, my kids won’t talk to me at all

now, maybe they’ll never, but I’m finally free.

 

The court calls me Notnow Neverwas

and they laugh, when I enter or leave,

they say it through a cone, long and loud

“Ladies and Gentlemen!  Boys and girls!”

then they lower the boom, pointing to me

a smiling finger, no, they cackle grimly

without humor, but they don’t even know

no one’s laughing, either and I have a knife

behind my back, time for some justice.

Poem: The Wartime

Poem: Khan

We gotta be an army,’cause it’s us verse them

all over again, warp speed five overdrive

and dammit, how did he know?

 

But you gave as good as you got, at least they can say that

you know, and we damaged their fazers

warp drive, and they ain’t goin nowhere.

 

A distinct possibility, barely sir suicide telephone

operator standing by, pen on paper planting

in your back a hoe, because you’re both bad at this.

 

Best we could do in two hours, a one mark three

two four, marching down a hallway

wearing an ascot, emergency lights abound around

 

Tactically inoperative, raise the shields

rushing down on a chariot, torpedoes fire

harking make them stark, stretched out like a bird.

 

Pre-emptive possibility, mirror facing cannibals

we could be sometime soon, was ego in my lenses

and is it still?

 

Are they shadow puppets?  In my mind

do they plot against me, tuckered in candle light

blanket forts, leaning and caressing.

 

Refracted reality satire is everywhere, in the walls

and copper wire, for it bleeds through the frame

when you spot it, feeling it in the pulse.

Poem: Khan

Movie Review: Observe and Report

Observe and Report (2009)

Starring: Seth Rogen, Anna Farris, Ray Liotta

Writer/Director: Jody Hill

As a mainstream comedy, Observe and Report might appear disjointed, unsettling and perhaps even unpleasant, but as a twisted and violent character study, it is a criminally underrated gem.  The film centers around Ronnie (Seth Rogen), a mall security guard who’s delusions of grandeur and severe bipolar disorder combine to make him an incredibly dangerous person.  The movie opens on a tracking shot that follows a chubby disheveled looking miscreant as he runs through a parking lot exposing himself to people and yelling things like “I’m gonna fuck you!” and “Touch it slut!”  This vaguely horrifying opening is just the beginning, and it acts as a pallet cleanser for the film’s coming parade of misguided and damaged people.

Seth Rogen owns the film, creating a protagonist that might win you over with his bright-eyed enthusiasm, only to horrify you when he tazes people for no reason or badly beats a group of teenagers for skateboarding in the parking lot.  The flasher, to Ronnie, represents a chance to prove himself, and perhaps even an opportunity to become a real police officer.  The police are represented here by Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), and though in a more conventional comedy this character would eventually gain a begrudging respect for Ronnie’s passion and level of effort, in Observe and Report his annoyance turns into hatred by the midpoint of the film, and the relationship between these two becomes central to the narrative.

Ronnie’s conflict with Detective Harrison represents what I believe is the crux of writer/director Jody Hill’s (Eastbound and Down) entire comedic sensibility.  Hill prefers to focus on those that cling to the underside of society.  Ronnie’s mother (Celia Weston) is such an alcoholic that she has trouble stringing a sentence together, and the object of his affection Brandi (Anna Faris) is likewise a mess.  On her and Ronnie’s one and only date, she downs shot after shot of tequila before taking his prescription psych meds and swallowing them one after another.  This leads to a disturbing sex scene in which she appears to be unconscious laying on a vomit stained pillow (if you’re thinking date rape, she does say “don’t stop motherfucker” in the middle).  The one character who seems to have it more-or-less together is Ronnie’s assistant Dennis (Michael Pena), who it turns out has been planning to rob the mall, which he does in spectacularly destructive fashion.

Where every character ends his or her story might be an indication that (writer/director) Hill has an affection for the scumbags and bottom feeders of society, but I don’t necessarily think that this is the case.  I think Observe and Report is more of a funhouse mirror, a strange and heightened perversion of reality wherein people’s addictions and faults of character are their defining characteristics.  In this perverted world, Ronnie (Seth Rogen) is the alpha, a character who’s devotion to the lies he builds around himself shield him from the judgement of the rest of the world.  The distorted reality the film surrounds itself in, and its unwillingness to soften its message for the masses are sure to make it a future cult classic.

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Trailer:

Movie Review: Observe and Report

Poem: Contested Bloodbath

“Their skin is different and they’re coming!”

scream enflamed anuses, wearing masks and burning leaflets,

censored Wicker Man stuck in a Nicolas Cage,

“Rage is power” scream dire spokesmen, “Unleash and burn it all!”

stupid blades jag left and write, authoring wars of confused misdirection,

rope-a-dope movement, dump it in the fryer, sleep to the scream symphony,

“It’s my party and you’ll die if I want you to,”

delegates bound with twine, chewing cud and bullshit,

hanging from rafters and pissing on the electorate,

“”Plunge suffocation,” master says, “this man lost faith”

standing over onetime prophet, shoving his head in a bucket,

face force into sunlight, offstruck at the hinge,

“Not one of us will know rules but dangers are all around,”

read by the light of their glowing eyes, dream by the paranoid light,

the spies everywhere, false hearts in drunken frenzy,

“Look!” the hangman spouts, “to your left is a liar,”

bathe in kin blood, don’t look back, future reflective blindsight,

blodpile champion, leading down a darkened suicide,

“Hear the shouts and raise the blinds high, we finally come home,”

months after, the carnage was through,

the dead outnumber the living, and no one sings the old songs.

Poem: Contested Bloodbath

Poem: The Last Game

The host held the mic at its base, wielding it like poo on a stick and jabbing it at people,

“What’s the answer?”

words pointed sharp, loud and aggressive at first,

when young, sweat beaded, teeth whitened, a positivity tornado,

after three decades, he hates it all now,

everyone, braying bitch bastards, mistake machines and turbo divas,

making eyes at the camera, never for cue cards and kissy faces,

“God you are ass-ugly,  stupid,”

and they laughed, cheered and put him in magazines.

he stares straight forward, asking himself to monolog, but he forgot the words,

weeping on the white tile floor, landing a squish moist mat,

six bullets in the revolver, ready to bang a curtain call,

“Get this wrong and I die”

he threatens with barrel to temple, pressing and shaking,

“Honeydew,” she said, though the answer was cantaloupe,

two words, short and sweet to be his last,

“so close,”

bang said the gun, everyone screamed

retrospect hilarity, and they study it in school now, too,

he wanted to win oscars, now he’s a psychology thesis,

“Richard Preston, suicide champion, the dawning of a new performance art.”

Poem: The Last Game

The Head (Volume 2)

His name was Alister, or that’s what he took, anyways,

like a coin he flipped, into the thieves ken, student-wise,

“Or so he says” said the boy, but Horshoe is elder, he decides,

“The future can be ours,” he said, “But I am older always,”

like a windy rainstorm on the plain, rushing and nothing else,

the boy is blustery screaming vengeance for the horror wrought,

wrought in the future though, it must be said, if he’s honest,

“For now you tire,” says jackal taking a knee, “Rest and heal,”

these were kind words, the boy realized, and felt a familiarity.

 

He lay on a cot against the wall, Jackal kicked the leg out,

calcium musical collision, he was socked, eyes open,

“Okay kid,” Horshoe howled coyotily, and Jackal too,

“”First task:” in unison declared, “We need a dinner,”

“Get us food,” Jackal put plainly, an assignment was had,

“Find a stranger,” Horshoe held my gaze in his hands,

as he pounded his palm, “And take what’s his,”

“Get food,” Jackal interjected, “If you don’t I’ll be cross,”

Horshoe cackled, “Worry not, he’ll do naught without say-so,”

Jackal said nothing, allowing his knuckles to dangle,

the boy was off, to search for a coin purse or pettibag,

bystanders are spread wide, seems, rivers between,

daylight lingers caution, so once again waiting’s the game,

no hidden hovel, his shelter was the strength of his gait.

 

Sunset and Alister saw a citizen, stretching in a field,

“Like a mental case,” spoken aloud, “What are you?”

“Readying,” he said, folding his arms over his knee,

“Do you not?” he quested like he’s the teacher,

so the boy threw a rock, on a straight line to his temple,

that was intent, of course far from real, as it landed in hay,

the citizen ignored it, as if righteous, or he didn’t notice,

lies like these are oil, pour it on and set it aflame,

charging, gripping, pounding and crushing his head,

such was Alister’s intent, but he was disarmed quick,

his wrist was wrenched, and his eyes blurred white flash,

the boy cried out, praying as his knees hit the ground,

and a final thud, just as he heard Jackal and Horshoe,

 

The boy woke to the two of them sitting, filled up and forthright,

he noticed a dead body near the fire, “was his death required?””

the boy asked, crestfallen morality mask, asking and curving eyebrows,

“Requirement is illusion,” Horshoe taught, “4 letter words,”

“Like have and must are poison, directions and barriers,”

and they taught that in the world, self is the one only good,

the boy saw through their seduction, his eyes on the guidebook,

they were vulnerable, the boy figured of the unarmed thieves,

wine was a drunk then, and each of them swayed crashing,

but there were two of them, so he set to sewing conflict,

“So where to next?” he asked, to Jackal only, as Horshoe watched,

“Training,” said Horshoe stone faced, “You need teaching,”

“This is true,” Jackal agreed, “But our stores need filling,”

and the two of them fought, plastered confusion face paint.

 

Each of them cursed the other, and Alister stirred the pot,

“Horshoe said” was a lie I told, and “Jackal said” the same,

Horshoe: “I taught Jackal all he knows, and he would be nothing were I not everything,”

Jackal: “Horshoe is a liar and a thief whose day as come, he’s dead and his time is done,”

he agreed to aid each, palming blades and burying pebbles,

the boy pledged aid to each, waiting for a cleansing bloodbath,

Jackal: “You will approach from behind, piercing flab and muscled exterior coverings,”

Horshoe: “You will cut his throat while I hold his arms and we douse our flame in his blood,”

at sunrise, dual betrayal deliberated too late, time to go,

this was the time pledged to both, so the boy decided to see,

Jackal and Horshoe both struggled, expecting my aid, forthcoming not through the fight

Jackal stabbed Horshoe in the torso, as his throat was cut, and both of them fell away.

 

Both of the thieves Alister travelled with were bleeding to death,

as he had killed both of them, in self defense he’d figured,

and though they were both dead, their lessons remained,

he searched both satchels, finding them empty, thieves are poor,

but thrown off discarded into a ditch, a wolf’s eyes were still,

the boy boiled as this bystander was a salesman from the night before,

the boy’s thoughts of honor, his belief in the concept was threatened,

perhaps no such thing is, he spoke aloud in his head to himself,

honor is dead, and coin is the one poor good, so he wrapped the head,

slinging it in a satchel over shoulder, he set out to sell his wares,

he wait for darkness, the head overslung shoulder, torch held aloft.

 

Volume 1:

https://andrewhalteromniblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/poetry-the-head-volume-1/

The Head (Volume 2)

Poetry: The Head (Volume 1)

He doesn’t know if he’s ready, but he has his assignment and the time is now,

the moment for man-making is, stepping into the air holding pack and saber,

no fellowship partner or dog, he is all alone in the night heavy with sweat,

the contract is a death to bring, he must find a wolf and claim its head as his,

all of his friends have done it, if he wants a wife he needs to prove worthy,

dodging rocks and hurdling logs, in the distance he sees a torchlight,

he mouths a curse and spits thick, turning around escaping into darkness,

fires frighten wolves to vanishing, he knows from his father’s words,

“as darkness spreads all around, teeth fill in the space between trees,

watch yourself with your feelings, they are all you will have in the dark.”

 

Seeming to have direction, he loped from the flame, to grow his length from light,

as the fire faded from view, he groped the stillness, willing his thoughts to settle,

his eyelids shut around him, he achieved silence, but someone struck a flint,

a dim light through the brush, he this time ran for, his knife out and face afire,

whoever they are he thought, he would kill them, finally he would be a man,

he knew society would wonder, they would ask, “where is your trophy head?”

and he would respond simply, “I cleaved but one,” hanging a soul from a chain,

sneaking quiet near the light, he was almost to it, suddenly the flame snuffed,

and thus he was alone again, he whirled about, stabbing his blade in the air,

when four torches circled him, he stumbled feebly, he felt the cold ground rise,

“did you bring enough coin?”

 

This new voice sounded thick and travelled by experience and rum,

there were four men holding torches emerging from the wood,

each held a fire to his right and dangled a wolf’s head to his left,

a voice slid through the night like warm poison syrup,

“Raise your silver slow, boy,”

the salesman spoke an offer that cut the boy’s pride at an artery,

“The price is twenty for the head alone and seventy for the full pelt,”

“I carry no silver tonight, man,”

the boy holding his knife spoke with a dumb and haughty pride,

“My blade carries a death to the unholy but I’ve brought no coin,”

“You’re just a fool then, kid”

the salesman spoke on spewing a rueful mockery and contempt,

“Go with your god but when you fail you will search for my torch,”

“I am a righteous fool, sir”

the boy took this talk for a verbal joust and leveled his lance high,

“And if I find your torch I promise that you will die that night,”

 

The torchbearers riotous laughing, they fell as pins tipped over,

“I too was once a child,” came a voice behind him, “I was stupid,”

a pain swept through his knees, he was knocked down looking up,

“this is a lesson learnt,” the boy saw dark shapes, “learn it well,”

weighted leather fell with a thud, the blackest night shot through

the boy was in a red mist hanging from a string,

acid rain melting him down,

to nothing,

shink like a descabbard blade,

daytime comes in a great wave that heats his eyes,

the boy is a furious painful hate, directed at himself completely,

“You are like a soft egg,” cursing the reflecting pool, “a dead fool,”

he held his knife in suicide posture, ready to sever his own arteries.

 

“Stop!” a voice burst from the sky, “you’re not serious, you can’t be,”

“Idiot!” another came from behind, “an idiot with heart and derring-doo,”

The salesmen emerged, stalking slow and grinning deeply at the boy,

only a pair of them stood, Jackal and Horshoe with two sinister smiles,

“chance” said Jackal with a start, “or divine providence some would call,”

“yeah,” and Horshoe was giggling, “it’s the lucky day they would say,”

The boy sat on a log, making scales and seeing what options are best,

and dawn shone bright, the world is a game with ease of advantage,

 

Competition, hope and greed, they taught, or would,

“if today be my first lesson I will sop it and smile,”

the boy knelt, palms upturn, mind opened, wanting,

“I drop to knees and supplicate myself completely,”

Jackal cackled, and there was no other word for it,

his teeth sounded like knives, “that’s dangerous,”

moving like smoke he continued, “do you know?”

“he knows,” Horshoe contended, “sure he does,”

clapping the boy’s shoulder, lifting him skyward,

“don’t you?”

Poetry: The Head (Volume 1)