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American Psycho (2000)
A review, I done for the site Don't Touch The Watch!
Published in 1991 by Vintage Books, the novel 'American Psycho' is told in the first person perspective of supposed serial killer, and Wall Street yuppie 'Patrick Bateman'. The book depicts in savage detail numerous and grotesque acts of violence towards women, mixed with a pornographic level of sexual content, that led to a great deal of controversy and outrage on its release.
Set among the wealthy elite of Manhattan at the tail end of the 1980's, 'American Psycho' spans about three years in the life of privileged investment banker 'Patrick Bateman'. The book documents his everyday activities, told from his detached, self-obsessed perspective.
There are frequent accounts of sex acts with prostitutes that 'Bateman solicits'; these ("hardbodies") as he puts it are subjected to the worst descriptions of torture, rape, mutilation, cannibalism, and necrophilia. Originally optioned in 1991 just after its release, hoping to cash in on the wave of controversy generated by the book, the idea of an 'American Psycho' movie was shopped around the major studios. A number of scripts were drawn up, some scripted by Ellis himself, but treated the movie as a joke, Ellis even ended his script with 'Bateman' breaking into song, joined by the whole of New York.
Instead the studio settled on Mary Harron, who had achieved a level of success with her 1996 film 'I shot Andy Warhol' (a period piece set in the sixties), Harron was given the task of creating 1980s Wall Street; at the peak of its 'greed is good' mentality. Initially, she considered a number of actors for the role of Bateman, including Billy Crudup, Ben Chaplin, Jonny Lee Miller, and Jared Leto. Eventually, Harron offered the part to Christian Bale, a little known, at the time British actor.
Having accepted the role, Bale was met with contempt from producers, who tried to talk Harron into casting Edward Norton instead. Refusing, Harron stuck to her decision, insisting she would only make the movie if Bale was her lead. The studio finally relented, but as compensation they insisted the supporting cast be rounded out with big name actors. Agreeing, Harron hired William Defoe to play Kimball and Reese Witherspoon to play Evelyn.
With knives pointed squarely at the 'yuppie' juggler, Harron and her writing partner Guinevere Turner, set about to turn Ellis's episodic un- filmable novel into a viable movie. That scathingly dissects the wretched yuppie consumer driven lifestyle, under the movies sharp script. Along with a hypnotically unhinged performance by Bale, the movie turns what could have been a sadistic run of the mill serial killer movie, into something darkly comic and unique.
What little plot exists in the movie is loosely strung together by the murder of Paul Allen and the investigation into his disappearance. 'American Psycho' deliberately feels incoherent and detached as people fail to recognise each other, and often mistake one person for another, as they have becomes so interchangeable. Just as 'Bateman'spends all day in his office but never works, and visits 'ATMS' to with draw cash to an already over filled wallet. These people and their lives may look glamorous and filled with purpose, but scratch the surface and you'l find there's nothing there.
Speaking recently in an interview, Harron spoke of how she saw 'Bateman' as an alien life form, trying to copy our mannerisms, to "fit in", as he puts it. He acts as human as he can, but he's so twisted by greed and status that he's stopped being one of us, more of an entity, collected from the cesspool of all that was rotten in the greed is good era.
Bale inhabits 'Bateman', in a way no other actor possibly could. His skin an orange glow, his body a rippling series of muscles, covered by exquisitely designed suits. He so inhabits the character, that when you see him on screen you just see 'Bateman', never a performance. Having watched an appearance by Tom Cruise on the David Letterman show, Bale modeled his character on what he calls "this very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes" masked by an appropriately phony smile.
During the shooting of the film, Bale never dropped character even speaking in an American accent off set at all times. It was only at the wrap party, that he finally spoke in his own British accent, to the surprise of the crew members who thought he was speaking that way as a joke. It's that level of commitment that makes Bale the perfect casting choice, told at the time it would be career suicide to play the consumer monster; it instead had the opposite effect, leading to another American psycho, 'The Batman'.
Filled with endlessly quotable dialogue and classic scenes, like Bateman's moonwalk in the infamous 'hey Paul' scene. The movie has taken on another life since being released, even surpassing the notorious book that it was based on. E.B From http://donttouchthewatch.blogspot.com/