He has created a consistently creepy portrait of self-worship.

AMERICAN PSYCHO

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Writer/director Mary Harron has whipped American Psycho into a stylish horror film. She has infused the gruesome Bret Easton Ellis novel with wit and sophistication. The nasty story of misogyny and blood has become undeniably clever, if not palatable. The movie is not, as some say, an earnest comment on the greed of the '80s and '90s. Neither is it a graphic exercise in special-effects gore. It is a movie about the aesthetics of killing.

At 27, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a narcissist who works by day on Wall Street as an investment banker and by night as a serial killer. Patrick is inordinately fascinated by the symbols of his game: business cards, clothes, restaurants. In this world of corporate politics, Patrick and his friends are interested not in business, but in the rules of the competition.

These men, who favor Godiva, oysters, Annie Liebovitz, Page Six, Malcolm Forbes's birthday parties, and the Kentucky Derby, discuss the details of status in restaurants of the moment. Wherever the others go at night, Patrick returns to an apartment of spare elegance that would make even a genuine minimalist blush. He lives metaphorically, and sometimes actually, in an operating room. A medicine cabinet of carefully researched vanity tools sustains his daily ritual of cosmetic and physical perfection. He is a self-created exhibit.

When it comes to killing, Patrick selects his victims in a finely honed rhythm. In a marvelous satire of pop critics, he sets his scenes with monologues about the pop music flooding the room (Whitney Houston, Phil Collins). As he chooses his weapons-an ax, a glass, a chain saw, knives, a nail gun-he savors the cleverness of his orderly plan before executing the masterstroke. It is a measured orchestration capped by a crescendo of violence. Patrick cares about nothing. "I have all the characteristics of a human being, but my only emotions are greed and lust."

His world: self-interest, cocaine, steroids, alcohol, expensive suits, striped shirts, suspenders, empty people, and sleek restaurants where food is art. His passion: objects as sculpture. The design of interiors, weapons, and contemporary gadgets rivets him. When a police car explodes, Patrick pauses reflectively to admire the damage he has wrought with one tiny gun. The beauty is in the details.

Mary Harron gets away with all this by concentrating on visual impact. The weapons glisten, the stage is set with painstaking care, but rarely do we have to see the act itself. She jumps from the elegance of weaponry to the aesthetics of blood seeping or spattering.

Ms. Harron has drawn a terrific performance from Christian Bale. He has created a consistently creepy portrait of self-worship. It's their collaboration that allows this horror tale to wend its terrible way with wit and style. Seen as a horror show, it's first-rate. Take it straight, and the material is beyond ugly. Be warned: if style can't transcend subject for you, skip this one.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : Lions Gate Films
Rating : R
Running time : 1h44m


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