American Psycho (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mary Harron|
|Based on||American Psycho
by Bret Easton Ellis
|Music by||John Cale|
|Edited by||Andrew Marcus|
|Distributed by||Lions Gate Films|
|Running time||101 minutes|
|Box office||$34.3 million|
American Psycho is a 2000 American psychological black comedy film co-written and directed by Mary Harron, based on Bret Easton Ellis's novel of the same name. It stars Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Chloë Sevigny, Samantha Mathis, Cara Seymour, Justin Theroux, and Reese Witherspoon. It debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2000, and was released theatrically on April 14, 2000. The film received generally positive reviews and was a financial success with critics mainly praising the screenplay and Christian Bale's performance.
Patrick Bateman is a wealthy investment banker living in Manhattan in the late 1980s. His life revolves around dining at trendy restaurants while keeping up appearances for his fiancée, Evelyn, and for his circle of equally wealthy and shallow friends, most of whom he dislikes. However, he also leads a secret life as a serial killer. Throughout the film, Bateman describes the material accoutrements of his lifestyle: his daily morning exercise and beautification routine, his music collection, including performers such as Huey Lewis and the News, Phil Collins, and Whitney Houston, his taste for expensive designer clothes, and the lavish couture of his apartment. In one scene, Bateman and his associates flaunt their business cards in a display of utter vanity. After becoming embarrassed by the superiority of coworker Paul Allen's card, he murders a homeless man and his dog in an alleyway in a fit of frustrated rage. At a Christmas party, Bateman makes plans to have dinner with Paul, who had earlier mistaken him for a comparable associate named Marcus Halberstram. Bateman gets Paul drunk and lures him back to his apartment.
While playing "Hip to Be Square", Bateman ambushes Paul and murders him with an axe. Bateman disposes of Paul's body, then goes to Paul's apartment to stage the situation so that others believe Paul has run off to London. After Paul's family becomes suspicious of his disappearance, Bateman is met by Donald Kimball, a detective searching for the truth regarding his whereabouts. Bateman has a violent threesome with two prostitutes, whom he names "Christie" and "Sabrina", while lecturing them about the improvement he saw in the band Genesis after Phil Collins replaced Peter Gabriel as the lead member. The two women leave his apartment bruised and bloodied. The next day, his colleague, Luis Carruthers, reveals his new business card, sending Bateman over the edge. Bateman tries to kill Luis in the restroom of an expensive restaurant, but cannot bring himself to strangle him. Luis mistakes the attempted murder for a sexual advance and declares his love for Bateman, who flees in panic and disgust. After murdering a model, Bateman invites his infatuated secretary, Jean, to dinner, suggesting she meet him at his apartment for drinks beforehand. When Jean arrives, Bateman, unbeknownst to Jean, holds a nail gun to the back of her head while the two converse.
However, upon receiving an answering machine message from his fiancée, he decides not to kill Jean and asks her to leave before she gets "hurt". Following another luncheon with Kimball, Patrick has a threesome with Christie and his old friend Elizabeth at Paul's apartment. Bateman kills Elizabeth during sex, and Christie runs out of the apartment in horror, along the way discovering multiple female corpses and the phrase "Die Yuppie Scum" scrawled on the walls in blood. Bateman murders her dropping a chainsaw down a flight of stairs and onto her, as she flees the building. A while later, Bateman abruptly breaks off his engagement with Evelyn because "You're just not that important to me", which leaves her shattered and in tears. That night, Bateman finds a kitten as he uses an ATM, then imagines that the display reads "Feed me a stray cat." A woman sees him and tries to stop him. Bateman shoots her instead and lets the cat go. A police chase ensues, but Bateman destroys the police cars by shooting out their gas tanks, causing explosions that kill the pursuing officers. Fleeing to his office, Bateman accidentally enters the wrong office building, where he murders a security guard and a janitor.
Upon reaching his office, Bateman calls his lawyer Harold. He leaves a lengthy message on Harold's answering machine, confessing most of his murders in detail. The following morning, Bateman visits Paul's apartment to find it vacant and up for sale. The real estate broker views him as an intruder and tells him to leave immediately. As Bateman goes to meet with his colleagues and lawyer, Jean finds detailed drawings of murder and rape in Bateman's office journal. At the same time, Bateman sees Harold at a restaurant with his friends. Patrick tries to convince him that he is a serial killer. However, Harold mistakes him for another colleague named Davis, and laughs off the confession as a joke. He also denies that Paul was murdered, claiming to have had dinner with him in London only 10 days before. Bateman realizes that he will continue to escape the punishment he deserves (or his crimes may not have occurred). He laments that there has been no catharsis and that he still remains a mystery to himself. Although he regrets that nothing has been gained, he still wants his pain to be inflicted on others. He finishes his inner monologue by stating, "This confession has meant nothing".
- Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman
- Willem Dafoe as Detective Donald Kimball
- Jared Leto as Paul Allen
- Josh Lucas as Craig McDermott
- Samantha Mathis as Courtney Rawlinson
- Matt Ross as Luis Carruthers
- Bill Sage as David Van Patten
- Chloë Sevigny as Jean
- Cara Seymour as Christie
- Justin Theroux as Timothy Bryce
- Guinevere Turner as Elizabeth
- Reese Witherspoon as Evelyn Williams
- Reg E. Cathey as Al
- Krista Sutton as Sabrina
- Catherine Black as Vanden
- Anthony Lemke as Marcus Halberstram
- Stephen Bogaert as Harold Carnes
Mary Harron, who had previously directed I Shot Andy Warhol, directed the film and co-wrote its screenplay with Guinevere Turner. This screenplay was selected over three others, including one by Ellis himself. Turner claims Ellis' only complaint with the film was Bateman's moonwalk before killing Paul Allen. In the novel, Patrick Bateman's favorite artists are Genesis, Huey Lewis and the News, and Whitney Houston. An entire chapter is devoted to each. Virtually every line in the film, including voice-overs, are taken nearly verbatim from Ellis' novel. One of the few discrepancies is that several names from the book were changed for the film; for instance Paul Owen became Paul Allen and Tim Price became Tim Bryce. In an interview, Harron claimed to be distressed upon discovering that Paul Allen was a famous businessman, and that she meant nothing by the use of his name.
Johnny Depp was informally attached to the project, first with Stuart Gordon in talks and then with David Cronenberg attached. Brad Pitt was once attached to star, with David Cronenberg directing and Ellis himself writing the script. Edward Norton was offered the part of Bateman but turned it down. Harron was set to direct, and offered the role of Bateman to Christian Bale, when production company Lions Gate Films issued a press release that Leonardo DiCaprio would star. Oliver Stone subsequently expressed interest in directing the film, which would have starred DiCaprio as Bateman, James Woods as Kimball, and Cameron Diaz as Evelyn with a script written by Matthew Markwalder. Harron resigned in protest because of Stone's and DiCaprio's desire to make Bateman more humane and less of a cold-blooded killer. DiCaprio was going to be paid $20 million for the film. When Gloria Steinem lobbied DiCaprio not to make the film, on the grounds that his fan base consisted mostly of young teenage girls following his Titanic success, he dropped out, as did Stone. Ewan McGregor was subsequently offered the part, but declined after Christian Bale personally urged him to do so. Eventually Harron and Bale returned together to the project.
Bale spent several months working out by himself, and then three hours a day with a trainer during pre-production, in order to achieve the proper physique for the narcissistic Bateman. To prepare for the role, Bale spoke to Harron on the phone about "how Martian-like Patrick Bateman was, how he was looking at the world like somebody from another planet, watching what people did and trying to work out the right way to behave". During their conversations, he told her that he had seen Tom Cruise on David Letterman's talk show and Harron related that Bale was struck by the movie star's "very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes, and he was really taken with this energy." Bale also used Nicolas Cage's performance in Vampire's Kiss as inspiration for this role, as the two characters are strikingly similar.
As promotion, one could register to receive e-mails "from" Patrick Bateman, supposedly to his therapist. The e-mails, written by a writer attached to the film and approved by the book's author Bret Easton Ellis, follow Bateman's life since the events of the film. He discusses such developments as his marriage to (and impending divorce settlement with) his former secretary, Jean, his complete adoration of his son, Patrick Jr., and his efforts to triumph over his business rivals. The e-mails also describe or mention interactions with other characters from the novel, including Timothy Price (Bryce in the film version), Evelyn, Luis, Courtney, David, Detective Kimball, and Marcus. However, the film's star, Christian Bale, was not happy with this kind of marketing: "My main objection is that some people think it will be me returning those e-mails. I don't like that ... I think the movie stands on its own merits and should attract an audience that can appreciate intelligent satire. It's not a slasher flick, but it's also not American Pie. The marketing should reflect that."
Lions Gate spent $50,000 on an online stock market game, Make a Killing with American Psycho, which invited players to invest in films, actors, or musicians using fake Hollywood money. This marketing ploy did little to help the film's box office but the studio's co-president Tom Ortenberg still claimed that it was a success: "The aim was to gain exposure and awareness for the picture, and we did that," he said. "Lions Gate will make a tidy profit on the picture."
The soundtrack for the film was scored by John Cale, with artists such as David Bowie, The Cure, and New Order. The Huey Lewis and the News song "Hip to Be Square" appears in the film and was initially intended to be on the soundtrack album, but was removed from the album due to lack of publishing rights. As a result, Koch Records was forced to recall approximately 100,000 copies of the album which were destroyed. Koch Records president Bob Frank said, "As a result of the violent nature of the film, Huey Lewis's management decided not to give the soundtrack clearance". Lewis' manager Bob Brown claimed that the musician had not seen the film and that "we knew nothing about a soundtrack album. They just went ahead and put the cut on there. I think what they're trying to do is drum up publicity for themselves". In a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, Lewis stated that the violence in the movie played no part in the decision not to allow the song to be included on the soundtrack. He reiterated Bob Brown's earlier denial stating "It was in the USA Today and everywhere else. It said, "Huey Lewis saw the movie and it was so violent that he pulled his tune from the soundtrack." It was completely made up." In addition, prior to the start of principal photography, Whitney Houston refused to allow the use of her performance of the song "The Greatest Love of All" in the film and was replaced by an easy-listening orchestrated version.
American Psycho premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, where it was touted as the next Fight Club. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave the film an NC-17 rating for a scene featuring Bateman having a threesome with two prostitutes. The producers excised approximately 18 seconds of footage to obtain an R-rated version of the film.
American Psycho debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, where it polarized audiences and critics; some showered the film with praise, others with scorn. Upon its theatrical release, however, the film received positive reviews in crucial publications, including The New York Times which called it a "mean and lean horror comedy classic". Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and praised Christian Bale's performance as being "heroic in the way he allows the character to leap joyfully into despicability; there is no instinct for self-preservation here, and that is one mark of a good actor". In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan wrote, "The difficult truth is that the more viewers can model themselves after protagonist Bateman, the more they can distance themselves from the human reality of the slick violence that fills the screen and take it all as some kind of a cool joke, the more they are likely to enjoy this stillborn, pointless piece of work". Newsweek magazine's David Ansen wrote, "But after an hour of dissecting the '80s culture of materialism, narcissism and greed, the movie begins to repeat itself. It becomes more grisly and surreal, but not more interesting". In his review for the Village Voice, J. Hoberman wrote, "If anything, Bale is too knowing. He eagerly works within the constraints of the quotation marks Harron puts around his performance".
Rolling Stone 's Peter Travers wrote, "whenever Harron digs beneath the glitzy surface in search of feelings that haven't been desensitized, the horrific and hilarious American Psycho can still strike a raw nerve". In his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris wrote, "The best scenes in the film involve the kind of status-seeking jokes that would make a very funny short subject. But over a feature-length film, there is only so much hollowness this viewer can endure before starting to yawn and look at his watch. Curiously, the material has even lost its power to shock and outrage". Entertainment Weekly gave the film an "A-" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "By treating the book as raw material for an exuberantly perverse exercise in '80s nostalgia, [Harron] recasts the go-go years as a template for the casually brainwashing-consumer/fashion/image culture that emerged from them. She has made a movie that is really a parable of today". Time magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, "Harron and co-screenwriter Guinevere Turner do understand the book, and they want their film to be understood as a period comedy of manners".
Bloody Disgusting ranked the film at #19 in their list of the 'Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade', with the article praising "Christian Bale's disturbing/darkly hilarious turn as serial killer/Manhattan businessman Patrick Bateman, a role that in hindsight couldn't have been played by any other actor. ... At its best, the film reflects our own narcissism, and the shallow American culture it was spawned from, with piercing effectiveness. Much of the credit for this can go to director Mary Harron, whose off-kilter tendencies are a good complement to Ellis' unique style."
Author Ellis said, "American Psycho was a book I didn't think needed to be turned into a movie," as "the medium of film demands answers," which would make the book "infinitely less interesting." He also said that while the book attempted to add ambiguity to the events and to Bateman's reliability as a narrator, the film appeared to make them completely literal before confusing the issue at the very end.
The film currently holds a 67% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states "If it falls short of the deadly satire of Bret Easton Ellis's novel, American Psycho still finds its own blend of horror and humor, thanks in part to a fittingly creepy performance by Christian Bale."
A Special Edition DVD was released in 2005. In the US, two versions of the film have been released: an R-rated and Unrated Version. For the edited version and R-rated cinematic release in the United States, the producers excised approximately 18 seconds of footage from a scene featuring Bateman having a threesome with two prostitutes. Some dialogue was also edited: Bateman orders a prostitute, Christie, to bend over so that another, Sabrina, can "see your asshole", which was edited to "see your ass". The unedited version also shows Bateman receiving oral sex from Christie.
The film's influence can be seen in Kanye West's music video "Love Lockdown". In Showtime's Dexter, main character Dexter Morgan is revealed to use the alias "Dr. Patrick Bateman" to buy narcotics. It has also generated academic work that examines the film as a form of social critique.
A direct-to-video sequel, American Psycho 2, directed by Morgan J. Freeman and starring Mila Kunis was released in 2002. The sequel's only connection with the original is the death of Patrick Bateman (played by Michael Kremko wearing a face mask), briefly shown in a flashback. However, the sequel continues the pattern in the first film of featuring a series of graphic deaths of colleagues and friends of the main character. The film received a majority of negative reviews and holds an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
On September 10, 2013, it was announced that FX and Lionsgate are developing an American Psycho TV series that will serve as a sequel to the film. It would be set in the present, with Patrick Bateman in his 50s, grooming an apprentice to be just like him.
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- Bret Easton Ellis talks film adaptations at SCAD