American Psycho (film)
|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|
Columbia Pictures (international)
|Box office||$34.3 million|
American Psycho is a 2000 American black comedy slasher film co-written and directed by Mary Harron, based on Bret Easton Ellis's 1991 novel of the same name. It stars Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Chloë Sevigny, Samantha Mathis, Cara Seymour, Justin Theroux, Guinevere Turner, Reg E. Cathey and Reese Witherspoon.
Set in the 1980s, the film focuses on the actions of Patrick Bateman, the self-proclaimed "American psycho" of the title. While at first glance Bateman is a yuppie New York City investment banker, he is gradually revealed to be living a gruesome second life as a serial killer preying on prostitutes, work colleagues, and finally random members of the public.
Producer Edward R. Pressman purchased the film rights to the novel in 1992. After discussions with David Cronenberg fell through, Harron was brought on to direct and cast Bale in the lead role. Lionsgate acquired worldwide distribution in 1997 and temporarily replaced Harron and Bale with Oliver Stone as director and Leonardo DiCaprio portraying Patrick Bateman. DiCaprio left in favor of The Beach and Harron and Bale were brought back.
American Psycho debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2000, and was released theatrically on April 14, 2000. The film was a financial success and received generally positive reviews, with particular praise for both Bale's performance and the screenplay. It has since developed a cult following. A direct-to-video sequel, American Psycho 2, was released in 2002, albeit with almost no relation to the original.
In 1987, wealthy New York investment banker Patrick Bateman's life revolves around dining at trendy restaurants while keeping up appearances for his fiancée Evelyn and his circle of wealthy and shallow associates, most of whom he hates. Bateman describes the material accoutrements of his lifestyle, including his morning exercise, beautification routine, designer wardrobe and expensive furniture. He also discusses his music collection by mimicking phrases he's seen in music reviews.
Bateman and his associates flaunt their business cards in a display of vanity. Enraged by the superiority of his co-worker Paul Allen's card, Bateman murders a homeless man and his dog. At a Christmas party, Bateman makes plans to have dinner with Allen, who mistakes Bateman for another coworker. Bateman gets Allen drunk and lures him back to his apartment. While playing "Hip to Be Square", Bateman delivers a monologue to Allen about the artistic merits of the song, before proceeding to murder him with a mirror-polished axe. After disposing of the body, Bateman breaks into Allen's apartment and leaves a phony message on his answering machine, saying that Allen has gone on a business trip to London. Bateman is later interviewed about Allen's disappearance by private detective Donald Kimball.
Bateman takes two prostitutes, whom he names Christie and Sabrina, to his apartment and expounds on his opinions of the band Genesis. After they have sex, Bateman brings out instruments he uses for bodily harm. They later leave his apartment evidently bloodied and mistreated.
Bateman's colleague Luis Carruthers reveals a new business card, reminding Bateman of Allen's card. Bateman tries to strangle Luis in the restroom of an expensive restaurant, but Luis mistakes the attempt for a sexual advance and declares his love for Bateman, who flees in disgust. After murdering a model, Bateman invites his secretary Jean to dinner, suggesting that she meet him at his apartment for drinks. When Jean arrives, unbeknownst to her, Bateman holds a nail gun to the back of her head while they chat. When he receives a message from Evelyn on his answering machine, he asks Jean to leave.
Kimball meets Bateman for lunch and tells him he is not under suspicion in Allen's disappearance. Detective Kimball interviews Bateman again and, while Kimball remains suspicious of Bateman, he reveals that a colleague of Bateman's spotted Paul Allen in London, calling into question the entire investigation. Bateman is relieved by the news, but is perturbed and begins to doubt himself.
Bateman invites Christie and his acquaintance Elizabeth to Allen's apartment for sex, and kills Elizabeth during the act. Christie runs, discovering multiple female corpses as she searches for an exit. A naked Bateman chases her and drops a chainsaw on her as she flees down a staircase, killing her.
Bateman breaks off his engagement with Evelyn. That night, as he uses an ATM, he sees a cat and the ATM displays the text "feed me a stray cat". When he prepares to shoot the cat, a woman confronts him, so he shoots her. A police chase ensues, but Bateman kills all four cops. Fleeing to his office, Bateman enters the wrong building, where he murders a security guard and a janitor. In an office he believes is his, Bateman calls his lawyer Harold Carnes and frantically leaves a confession regarding the many murders on Carnes's answering machine.
The following morning, Bateman visits Allen's apartment, expecting to clean up Allen's remains, but it is vacant and for sale. He pretends to be a potential buyer, but the realtor tricks Bateman into revealing that he is not there to buy the apartment. She then cryptically tells him that the apartment does not belong to Paul Allen, before ordering him to leave. While Bateman goes to meet with his colleagues for lunch, a horrified Jean finds detailed drawings of murder and mutilation in Bateman's office journal.
Bateman sees Carnes at the restaurant and mentions the phone message he left the prior evening. Carnes mistakes Bateman for another colleague and laughs off the phone confession as a joke. Bateman desperately explains who he is and again confesses the murders, but Carnes rebukes it as impossible, as he recently had dinner with Allen in London. A confused and exhausted Bateman returns to his friends, where they briefly muse on whether Ronald Reagan is a harmless old man or a hidden psychopath, before discussing their dinner reservations yet again. Left with the possibility that no one knows he is a murderer, or that he simply hallucinated the various killings, Bateman's voiceover narration reveals his realization that he will escape the punishment he feels he deserves, and that there has been no catharsis: "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
- Krista Sutton as Sabrina
- Stephen Bogaert as Harold Carnes
- Reg E. Cathey as Al
Producer Edward R. Pressman bought the film rights to Bret Easton Ellis's novel American Psycho in 1992, with Johnny Depp expressing an interest in the lead role. After discussions with Stuart Gordon to direct fell through, David Cronenberg became attached and brought Ellis to adapt the novel into a screenplay. The process was difficult for Ellis, due to Cronenberg's scene constraints and not wanting to use any of Ellis's restaurant or nightclub material from the novel. The script ended with an elaborate musical sequence to Barry Manilow's "Daybreak" atop the World Trade Center. "I'm glad it wasn't shot, but that kind of shows you where I was when I was writing the script," Ellis reflected. "I was bored with the material." Cronenberg was still listed as being attached to direct in March 1994, but with a new script by Norman Snider.
Pressman appeared at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival to pre-sell distribution rights, but to no avail. Mary Harron replaced Cronenberg as director while writing a new script with Guinevere Turner; their approach to the material and Bateman's character was influenced by Mario Bava's giallo film Hatchet for the Honeymoon, with Bava historian Tim Lucas noting that both films depict their respective protagonists as being motivated by a desire for self-discovery in their killings. Harron cast Christian Bale in a deal on good faith, and attached Willem Dafoe and Jared Leto in supporting roles. Development was looking to move forward following six years of rejection by Hollywood studios when independent Canadian distributor Lionsgate Films acquired worldwide distribution in April 1997. After having waited for a year, Bale and Harron were aiming to begin filming in August 1998 on a $6–10 million budget, but Lionsgate instead pursued Edward Norton and Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead role, arguing Bale was not famous enough. Lionsgate was still hoping to finalize a deal with Harron, while Bale's handshake deal without a pay or play contract was let go. Harron refused to meet with DiCaprio, displeased as she specifically chose Bale and believed DiCaprio's screen presence would have been too boyish for Patrick Bateman. She also believed the actor's reputation as a teen idol following Romeo + Juliet and Titanic would distract from American Psycho's production and tone.
Lionsgate was planning to increase the production budget to $40 million in the hopes of securing DiCaprio's $21 million asking price. At the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, a press release was issued that DiCaprio had taken the offer, which was quickly rebutted by DiCaprio's manager, Rick Yorn, who claimed the actor had simply expressed interest in the part. Yorn also wanted to make clear that DiCaprio had no knowledge of the development history under Harron and Bale. DiCaprio drafted a shortlist of replacement directors, including Oliver Stone, Danny Boyle, and Martin Scorsese. Working from a new script written by Matthew Markwalder, Stone was brought aboard, whom Harron called "probably the single worst single person to do it". The director wanted to eliminate the satire from Harron's script, emphasizing the psychological character traits of Patrick Bateman. However, Stone could not agree on the film's direction with DiCaprio, who decided to star in The Beach instead.
Bale remained committed, turning down other movie roles and auditions for nine months, confident DiCaprio would depart. Lionsgate made an offer to Ewan McGregor, who turned it down after Bale personally urged him to do so. Harron and Bale were eventually brought back under the agreement that the budget would not exceed $10 million. Bale spent several months working out by himself, and then three hours a day with a trainer during pre-production, to achieve the proper physique for the narcissistic Bateman. Harron claimed Bale struggled with the role until he noticed Tom Cruise in an interview on Late Night with David Letterman, being struck by Cruise's energy and "intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes". As Cruise had not yet appeared on that program, Harron or Bale was apparently misremembering Cruise's televised interview with Larry King.
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."
Lionsgate 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. "Lionsgate 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's 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." The same year, Lewis appeared in a YouTube video from Funny or Die, where he spoofed a scene from the film together with Weird Al Yankovic. 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; her version was replaced by an easy-listening orchestrated version.
American Psycho: Music from the Controversial Motion Picture
- "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" – Dope (Dead or Alive cover)
- "Monologue 1" – John Cale
- "Something in the Air" (American Psycho Remix) – David Bowie
- "Watching Me Fall" (Underdog Remix) – The Cure
- "True Faith" – New Order
- "Monologue 2" – John Cale
- "Trouble" – Daniel Ash
- "Paid in Full" (Coldcut Remix) – Eric B. & Rakim
- "Who Feelin' It" (Philip's Psycho Mix) – Tom Tom Club
- "Monologue 3" – M. J. Mynarski
- "What's on Your Mind" (Pure Energy Mix) – Information Society
- "Pump Up the Volume" – M/A/R/R/S
- "Paid in Full" (Remix) – The Racket
- "Monologue 4" (hidden track)
Other songs that appear in the film but not on the album
- "Walking on Sunshine" – Katrina and the Waves
- "I Touch Roses" – Book of Love
- "Hip to Be Square" – Huey Lewis and the News
- "The Lady in Red" – Chris de Burgh
- "If You Don't Know Me by Now" – Simply Red
- "In Too Deep" – Genesis
- "Sussudio" – Phil Collins
- "Secreit Nicht" – Mediæval Bæbes
- "Red Lights" – Curiosity Killed the Cat
- "Simply Irresistible" – Robert Palmer
- "Greatest Love of All" – Whitney Houston (Instrumental Version)
- "Al Mirar Tu Cara" – Santiago Jimenez Jr.
- "Enjoy the Silence" – Depeche Mode
American Psycho premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) initially 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 for its writing and performance from Christian Bale, others with criticism for its violent nature. Upon its theatrical release, the film received positive reviews in crucial publications, including The New York Times which called it a "mean and lean horror comedy classic". On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 70% based on 151 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "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." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 64 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D" on an A+ to F scale. It was called the “next Fight Club”, which Leto also appeared in, by the Guardian.
Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and regarded Christian Bale 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 a somewhat positive review for Slate magazine, David Edelstein noted the toned-down brutality and sexual content in comparison to the novel and wrote that the moment where Bateman spares his secretary is when "this one-dimensional film blossoms like a flower". Owen Gleiberman gave the film an "A−" rating, writing for Entertainment Weekly: "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 No. 19 in its 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's unique style."
Original 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. On a 2014 appearance on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast, Ellis indicated that his feelings towards the film were more mixed than negative; he reiterated his opinion that his conception of Bateman as an unreliable narrator did not make an entirely successful transition from page to screen, adding that Bateman's narration was so unreliable that even he, as the author of the book, didn't know if Bateman was honestly describing events that actually happened or if he was lying or even hallucinating. However, Ellis appreciated that the film clarified the humor for audiences who mistook the novel's violence for blatant misogyny as opposed to the deliberately exaggerated satire he'd intended, and liked that it gave his novel "a second life" in introducing it to new readers. Ultimately, Ellis said "the movie was okay, the movie was fine. I just didn't think it needed to be made."
A special-edition DVD was released on July 21, 2005. In the U.S., 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 U.S., the producers excised about 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 uncut version was released on Blu-ray on February 6, 2007. A 4K Blu-ray was released with the Uncut Version on September 25, 2018 in US and October 15, 2018 in United Kingdom. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment also released the film on Blu-ray around Australia, Spain, South Africa and Portugal in December 2008.
Themes and analysis
The film has generated various academic works that examine the film as a form of social critique.  In a 2020 interview with Little White Lies, Harron stated she "saw Bateman as a kind of buffoon ... The one thing you couldn’t do was think Bateman was in any way cool." Harron herself had shown interest in the work of Valerie Solanas prior to filming, recounting the radical feminist's life in her debut piece, I Shot Andy Warhol. Furthermore, on reading Ellis's novel Harron was struck by its extreme violence, wanting her adaption to highlight the book's dark humor instead. Nonetheless, the film generated significant controversy for the scenes of violence that remained.
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. The film was denounced by American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis. In 2005, star Mila Kunis expressed embarrassment over the film, and spoke out against the idea of a sequel. "Please somebody stop this," she said. "Write a petition. When I did the second one, I didn't know it would be American Psycho II. It was supposed to be a different project, and it was re-edited, but, ooh ... I don't know. Bad."
In popular culture
Independent musician Miles Fisher covered "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" on his self-titled 2009 EP, Miles Fisher. The music video is an homage to American Psycho, with Fisher imitating Christian Bale's performance as Patrick Bateman.
On September 10, 2013, it was announced that FX and Lionsgate were developing an American Psycho television series that would serve as a sequel to the film. It would be set in the present, with Patrick Bateman in his 50s, grooming an apprentice (Andrew Low) to be just like him. In April 2015, it was stated the show was still in development but as of 2019 it is presumed to have been cancelled or in development hell.
The character Bateman mistakenly attributes a quote by Edmund Kemper to Ed Gein, which has led to it being mistaken as such by others; Bateman says: "You know what Ed Gein said about women? ... He said 'When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things. One part of me wants to take her out, talk to her, be real nice and sweet and treat her right ... [the other part wonders] what her head would look like on a stick'."
Funny or Die recreated the "Hip to be Square" scene with Huey Lewis in the Bateman role and "Weird Al" Yankovic in the Allen role. In the scene, Lewis discusses the artistic merits of the film American Psycho and shows the actual scene. It ends with Lewis killing Yankovic saying "Try parodying one of my songs now, you stupid bastard!" The video then plays I Want a New Duck, a parody of the Huey Lewis and the News song I Want a New Drug.
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