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"American Psycho"

Directed by Mary Harron.
Written by Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner.  Based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis.
Starring Christian Bale.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  4/15/00


There are currently about 150 members on the Bellview subscription list.  As many of you know, I write these reviews for many different purposes, one of which is to eventually write movie reviews full-time.  In effect, these writeups serve as a way to build my movie resume and help improve my decent writing skills.  I thought I would take this brief paragraph to let you know that these reviews are very important to me and I really appreciate the feedback that I get from them.  So, if you get the chance, please respond to a review every so often to let me know that it was either pretty funny, pretty poor, or that I continuously misspell words like “Mendelsohn.”  It would really help me out and let me know that, in fact, you actually read the review every so often!

On to the flick.  “American Psycho” was actually slated to be a Leonardo DiCaprio film—he signed on to do this picture soon after doing “Titanic.”  But, he wanted an astounding $20 million to star in the film, and the budget approved by its distributor, Lions Gate Films, couldn't afford Leo's ridiculous salary.  So, at the last minute, Leo dropped out of the film, shooting was horribly delayed, and Christian Bale was signed to play the star of the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name.

The actor switch does the trick.  First and foremost, “American Psycho” is owned by Bale whenever he is on screen, which thankfully is almost every scene.  His Patrick Bateman is, as the title implies, a psychopathic serial killer, working in a cushy office job by day...and, well, slicing and dicing folks at night.  The role is just a whirlwind for Bale—getting the chance to play a coke-snorting, axe-wielding, menage-a-trois tanning bed killer just doesn't come along everyday for an actor, and Bale seems to be eating it up.

Bale is just amazing in this role, and I can't say enough about him here, but I will try.  Yes, ladies, even I must admit:  the man is seriously handsome.  In fact, I can't think of the last time an actor's looks really played a part of the story like Bale's do here.  His chiseled jaw and super-toned physique just command the screen at times, and it is obvious that he could get all of the women that he does in this movie because he pulls it off so well.  There is a scene where a private detective (Willem Dafoe) is asking Bateman where he lives, and when Dafoe hears his answer and says “oh, that's a nice spot!”, Bale simply answers “thank you”...but, director Mary Harron makes Bale look so debonair and smooth in his delivery that the whole five-second exchange comes off as extremely supercool.  Bale's unemotional character has the chance to play both calm and collected and out-and-out bloodthirsty within seconds, and his acting skills are obvious from the get-go.  This is a starmaking turn, and Bale seems to know that in his attack of all of the movie's scenes.

It doesn't hurt that the satire's nuances help drive a sometimes-brutal storyline.  Bateman's voiceovers about society, 80's music (this is set sometime around the Iran-Contra affair of the late 80's), and female conquests—not to mention business cards and his ridiculously anal morning routine—are great, and the treatment of wall street society and upper-crusty white guys is hilarious.  This movie should be considered more comedy than horror/thriller, since many of the killings happen off-screen anyway.  And, I don't think I've ever seen a sequence in a movie like the one where Bateman is talking about Phil Collins and his group genesis...and asking girls to perform sex acts on each other.  This movie actually pulled it off!

The movie isn't perfect—its ending was a bit cloudy and there are strange parts for characters that could have been left out, like Reese Witherspoon's fragile lover—but it is never boring and is so intense at times that you are glued to the screen.  Check this one out, but don't bring the kids!

Rating:  $8.25 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09