There is one good thing to take from American Psycho. That one good thing is Christian Bale’s performance. Everything else, from the story, to the supposed message–none of it matters or is in any way worth watching the film for. If you feel the need to watch the film, watch it for the right reason. Watch it for Christian Bale.
Bale really does feel like the sole highlight of the film, and the only reason I didn’t feel like watching it was a complete waste of my time. He plays Patrick Bateman, a cold, unrelenting serial killer. His mannerisms reflect the tone of the entire picture, one of greed and emotional detachment. He kills, often times ruthlessly, and he enjoys it. Bale seems to be enjoying playing the role as well.
And he deserves that enjoyment. American Psycho was the first of many “transformations of Bale”, which he has now become known for. Bale is an actor that puts incredible strain on their body in order to fit their role. He worked out for several months prior to filming, and this was without the direction of a trainer. After doing this, he got a trainer, and worked out more. He deserves praise for both his commitment to the role, and his portrayal as the life-less serial killer.
He also narrates part of the film, particularly the opening and beginning. He sounds like he is narrating a point-and-click adventure game on the computer, describing every action that he does. And then, after this is used for a while, it is forgotten about until the very end of the film. We no longer get to be inside the head of a killer, and instead just have to watch him perform his murders, with no form of motivation or insight given. Yawn.
This ends up being the film’s first problem. It is just too boring to hold the attention of its audience. Or maybe it was just my own attention that was waning throughout. Maybe some people will enjoy watching woman after woman being murdered in various ways. I don’t know, I’m not them.
“But wait,” I can hear you saying, “The murders are used to relay a message to the viewer, a message about greed and shallowness regarding life of a corporate businessman in the 1980’s.” I don’t know how to respond to that, to be honest, because that message didn’t come across very clearly to me. Maybe it was my own disinterest in everything that was going on, not caring about Bateman or his victims, but I just didn’t see it. Greed didn’t seem to have anything to do with the murders, or really anything else in the story. Yes, some characters were greedy. So what?
What’s more? Apparently American Psycho is supposed to be a satire. Really now, a satire? A satire of what? Slasher films in general? To be honest, it felt more like a bad slasher film than a satire of one. Yes, I can sort of see how it could be considered a “satire” when we get to meet detective Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe), who adds in a slight bit of humor, but his storyline doesn’t really go anywhere either. He talks with Bateman a few times, and then nothing. Well, what a waste of time those encounters were then.
I don’t know how accurate of a job director/writer Mary Harron and her co-writer Guinevere Turner did in adapting American Psycho. The original novel was controversial both prior to and after it was released. It was graphic in both its violent and sexual content. The film is graphic as well, but for no real reason. Yes, some of the scenes are somewhat disturbing, and the entire film is dark, but it doesn’t serve a purpose. The book either didn’t adapt well, or shouldn’t have been adapted in the first place; one of the two, take your pick.
I’ve just realized that I’ve practically ignored talking about the plot up until this point. The thing is, the plot doesn’t really exist, at least, not in a conventional manner. I wouldn’t even call it a story. I’d rather call it a series of loosely connected events involving a serial killer seducing or “purchasing” the services of women, before murdering them. That just about accurately describes the important parts of American Psycho.
There was one aspect of the film that really set me off, one technique that made me want to call the film completely ridiculous. There are a few times in the film where Bateman outright admits to being a killer, in one way or another. The other characters pass this off, don’t here him, or mishear him. One time, I could see this happening. But four times? That’s unacceptable, and made me almost lose respect for the entire production. There wasn’t even any reason to include these, except to make us wonder if Bateman wanted to be caught. If he did, he surely didn’t go about it the right way.
American Psycho actually managed to stir up one emotion inside of me: anger. Not at the characters and their stupid decisions, or at the silly plot, but at the film as a whole. It was almost a complete waste of time to sit through it, and if not for Bale’s performance, I would have called it one of the worst films I’ve seen. Even with Bale being the sole highlight, the film is still not worth your time to sit through, unless you enjoy watching random characters being murdered with axes, nail guns or chainsaws. Actually, even if you enjoy that, there are better films to watch. Avoid American Psycho.