Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

THE TALE OF A CORPORATE KILLING MACHINE AND WHY IT'S FREAKING HARD TO CARE AT ALL ABOUT IT...


American Psycho (2000)

I admit I'm reaching a bit reviewing a 13 year old movie like it's new but even though I've seen it (twice) I've never understood it (twice) so trying (for the third time) to break this one down was a little tough. Because it's ambiguous - did this person actually do the deeds portrayed in the movie or was it all in his head?

Christian Bale used to be somebody I liked to watch. Then he had his little temper tantrum and... it's kind of like the shine went off of the coin. He wasn't the cool character I thought he was. Oh he's professional, of that I have absolutely no question. What he's done to prepare for roles has been phenomenal - he's altered his own body in ways that seem terrible but made great impressions in the movies he did. If the role calls for anything like ultimate six pack abs to an emaciated appearance to martial arts to... he'll do it.

So I decided to try the AP movie again which is a cult classic and still a favorite of many Bale fans and see if I can make some sense out of it this time. Probably not, but bear with me.

This movie is based on the novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. It is told in the first person in both the novel and the movie. There is no backstory given - we know he is a psycho because of the title. So there is no understanding about why Patrick Bateman IS a psycho, just that yes, he is one. That's it. It's that lack of depth that kind of put me off with trying to 'understand' his mindset. He's not likable so there's not much opportunity to feel anything for him or what he does.


We open with a scene in one of those restaurants where a single dinner costs more than most bring home in a month. Tiny food served as art. Patrick Bateman (Bale) is with his cronies as they mainly focus on who else is seen and who sees them rather than what they're eating. Afterwards they go to a club and when Bateman is told he has to pay cash for drinks he tells the bartender (in somewhat harsher words) that she should die horribly so he can play in her blood. She either doesn't hear him, is ignoring him, or he never said it aloud. You get to decide.

Bateman, 27, is rich, successful, lives in 80's Manhattan - when avarice was cool I guess. His I-love-myself routine puts any woman's to shame - he spends more time in front of the mirror each day than I do all month. But that's just me. To an average woman, let's say a week. Having him tell us (or talking to himself about it) what products he uses made me laugh - it was like watching an infomercial for some beauty care products.


He continues his soliloquy (get used to it) and states that although he looks like a man and you may think he's a person - he's just an entity, not really there. Any man that loves himself that much I don't want around anyway but that's just me. At work he's deliberately mistaken for another man by much admired/detested businessman Paul Allen (Jared Leto looking - NOT like Jared Leto) which grates on him but in his fight to maintain civility he ignores it. Bateman has a fiancee' but almost gleefully constantly cheats on her, mostly with the fiancee' of his 'best friend'.

There's a rather famous scene which I thought was stupid but apparently it encompasses just what is wrong with these types of people - the business card scene. Bateman and his cronies compare what kind of business cards they have - the type of paper it's printed on, the font itself, whether it's embossed, etc. Apparently this, to them is like (and pardon the crass example) a group of boys pulling their privates out to see whose is bigger. Bateman's so upset that his doesn't 'measure up' that he murders a homeless man and his dog. Or not. He comments that whatever humanity he had is slipping away.

He takes Paul Allen out to dinner, then back to his place (covered in newspapers - any place with plastic everywhere or newspaper is a red flag to get the puck out of there). We then see that he's on medication but not what kind. Okay, now things are getting a little clearer. If he's already needing to be treated for something... He puts on Huey Lewis and the News' song 'Hip To Be Square', commenting on its social awareness while with a shiny ax he gleefully chops Allen apart. Now I never paid attention to the lyrics before but I see the 80's influence in that decade of decadence:

I used to be a renegade, I used to fool around 
But I couldn't take the punishment, and had to settle down
Now I'm playing it real straight, and yes I cut my hair
You might think I'm crazy, but I don't even care
Because I can tell what's going on
I like my bands in business suits, I watch them on TV
I'm working out most everyday and watching what I eat
They tell me that it's good for me, but I don't even care
I know that it's crazy
I know that it's nowhere
But there is no denying that

It's hip to be a square


Hmm... wow Huey, you were deep and I didn't even notice. Of course my fave song of yours was 'I Want A New Drug' so what do I know? The music must have been pretty important - it's also included in a musical made of this book. Umm, okay.

Calling himself 'Paul Allen' he convinces two prostitutes in a three-way. Calm down guys, this is only an R - the NC-17 you'll have to get the DVD for (thank goodness, that's not what I want to see). Even while beginning this sequence all 'Paul' can talk about is his favorite 80's music and make "profound" comments about them and the state of the world.

For all its posturing and violence and sex though, it is pretty hard to get involved with the character. To me, he has no depth. And, I guess, that's the point. Bateman is the way he is because he feels he's becoming like a cardboard cutout of a man instead of a real human being. Life means nothing to him yet the print of a business card is horrifically important?

The violence and sex continues as he uses the dead Paul Allen's apartment to carry out his sickest fantasies which don't seem to affect him much. But he cracks. All these 'outlets' he's been using to try to cope with his plastic world get the best of him and he calls his lawyer, giving a complete confession on an answering machine. Nothing happens. No police show up, nobody questions him, life goes on as always. Whatever relief he thought to get by his confession is denied him. Going to the apartment he's been using for his dirty deeds he finds that it is pristine, and a real estate broker is there to sell the apartment and tells him to leave.

He then sees his lawyer at a restaurant and asks about the message. But his lawyer, mistaking him for someone else (that theme is constant with all the characters, perhaps trying to say everyone is a carbon copy of everyone else) laughs and tells him that it was a good joke. Bateman insists he killed Paul Allen but his lawyer tells him no, he's had lunch with Allen twice in London. So Bateman's confession was all for nothing and he gets no resolution.

The last scene is his life going on as always, a faceless corporate machine who means nothing.