American Psycho

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
Director:Mary Harron
Writers:Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner
Lions Gate Films; R; 104 minutes
Cast:Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Chlöe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon

American Psycho is far more effective and interesting than the novel on which it was based. Director Mary Harron distills Bret Ellis Easton's overly descriptive psychotic death yarn into a tense little tale about materialism, narcissism, and corporate culture. She launches trenchant satire against unchecked maleness. The synopsis remains the same: a Wall Street executive leads a double life as a serial killer. Harron sharpens the focus, choosing only great, meaningful details. The yuppie in question, Bateman (Christian Bale), waxes profound on such pop greats as Huey Lewis and the News before murdering his victims. Harron opens American Psycho with a lengthy description of Bateman's daily ablutions, cataloguing the many skin and hair care products involved.

Welsh actor Christian Bale plays the bland, spoiled cipher of Bateman exquisitely. He even gets the snobby prep school accent right. In one of the movie's finest conceits, the anonymous power of the white male turns into a running joke: Bateman is repeatedly mistaken for other men. The supporting actors are all top-notch: Willem Dafoe's private investigator, Chlöe Sevigny's vulnerable secretary, Reese Witherspoon's vapid socialite fiancee.

Entertaining commentary with bloodlust to boot.

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