American Psycho (2000): Mary Harron’s Adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis Novel Starring Christian Bale

Some critics (not me) consider American Psycho, Mary Harron’s version of Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 scandalous novel, to be an elegant and satisfying satire of the 1980s, a decade of moral bankruptcy, greed, and decadence.

I was not a fan of the notorious book and I am not a fan of the movie, which world-premiered at the Sundance Film Fest (in the Premieres sections).

I have no doubts that the movie would fail when it’s released theatrically. There is no particularly urgent reason to see it.

You cannot fault the ensemble, both male and female thespians, who were meticulously chosen by Harron. Christian Bale plays the lead, Patrick Brenman, a vice president of a big wall Street firm, who early on quips, “I am in murder and executions, “ a play of word of “mergers and acquisitions.”

Pumped up to look like a sexy underwear model, Bale gives a compelling performance, and you can see why an array of diverse and beautiful women would be lured by him.

It’s a credit to the screenwriters that the female characters come across as half-human, compared to the monstrous character embodied by Bale, though I need to add that the excessive violence and misogyny were also manifest in the source material.

Harron and her collaborators have made a nasty, shallow satire, which is all surface images.  She seems to be more interested in the iconography of the body and the fetishistic aspects of sex, manifest in the way that Bale’s smooth, muscled up chest, flaunted time an again in a manner that makes the actor and his performance narcissistic.

The film is well produced, but to what effect? This “American Psycho” is an exercise in vain filmmaking, and Harron and her writers fail to convince us of what motivated them to make the picture in the first place.

Cast

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale)

Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe)

Paul Allen (Jared Leto)

Craig McDermott (Josh Lucas)

Courtney Rawlinson (Samantha Mathis)

Luis Carruthers (Matt Ross)

Evelyn Williams (Reese Witherspoon)

Jean (Chloe Sevigny)

Christie (Cara Williams)

Timothy Bryce (Justin Theroux)

 

Credits

Produced by Edward R. Pressman, Chris Hanley, Christian Halsey

Directed by Mary Harron

Screenplay: Mary Harron, Roberta Hanley, Guinevere Turner, based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis

Camera: Andrzei Sekula

Editing; Andrew Marcus

Music: John Cale

Production design: Gideon Ponte

Art direction: Andrew Stearn

Costumes: Isis Mussenden

F/X: Michael Cavanagh