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Remembering “American Psycho,” One Of The Best Films Of The 21st Century

It feels like the late 90s and early 2000s are chock-full of movies with a cult following. Sometimes those followings are well deserved, and sometimes they garner attention simply by being different. “American Psycho” is the former. “American Psycho” is one of my favorite, most well-directed films that I’ve ever seen. Even though it’s a film that’s received tremendous critical praise since its initial release, I would argue it almost falls into the “underrated” category. It’s a film with apparent flaws, but it’s one that I’ve lauded ever since I saw it because of its sensational direction and iconic lead performance.

Outside of blogs and tweets, I don’t really read much of anything. It’s always been a weird thing that I’ve had since I was young. I just have too short of an attention span. But I did read the “American Psycho” book after seeing the movie. And this is one of those rare cases in which I believe the film is better than the book that the film adapted. I’m no prude. I enjoy fucked up shit. But Bret Easton Ellis's original work is so loaded up with graphic descriptions of horrific violence that it almost becomes a chore to get through sometimes. I still view the work as a whole to be brilliant, but it tends to get very repetitive. The film does an excellent job of trimming down the fat while maintaining a coherent narrative.

This movie’s director, Mary Harron, has a bizarrely thin filmography. She didn’t really do anything of substance before “American Psycho,” and she hasn’t done anything mainstream since the film came out in 2000. I have no idea why that is because I think this movie is so brilliantly directed. It has an instantly recognizable visual language, but even beyond that, it’s very clear that Harron knew what kind of film she wanted to make. It adapts the source material while not being too overly faithful. It’s one of the big reasons why I prefer the film to the book because, while I am aware of the fact that Brett Easton Ellis intended to write a satirical novel, I just find Mary Harron’s film to be a lot funnier. Like I said earlier, I can laugh at some fucked up shit, and this movie about a serial killer is more quotable than 99% of comedies that we see today. The famous “Huey Lewis And The News” scene is one of my favorites.

This goes without saying, but Christian Bale‘s performance as Patrick Bateman is as good as it gets. This was in that late 90s, early 2000‘s hot streak that he had where people started to realize that this guy might be better at his job than almost anybody. He ended up taking on Batman five years later, and he did a great job, but it seemed like he was on a mission with some of the projects he took on at this point in his career, and his performance as Bateman is nothing but brilliant. I think it’s one of the hardest things for an actor to do to play a despicable character yet make him fun to watch. Bale pulls this off masterfully.

“American Psycho” has continued to gain popularity in the 2+ decades since its release. There was talk a while back about it a potential spinoff sequel series. The film even got adapted into a musical at one point starring Matt Smith. I think it’s essentially inevitable that we see some new version of “American Psycho” in the next 5 to 10 years. That’s the way Hollywood goes, and I’m willing to accept that. But I would love, even if it’s just for a five-minute cameo, to see Christian Bale play Patrick Bateman one more time. I don’t need a definitive conclusion, but given the way that the original film ended, I would just love to see him throw himself into that role again, which you know that he would. 

I’m writing this on Halloween because I view “American Psycho” as a perfect Halloween movie. At the risk of sounding remarkably pretentious, I don’t find most scary movies to be scary. I understand the appeal of the slasher genre, but I find most of those films to be made by amateurs. “American Psycho,” while not something that is going to terrify people the way that “The Exorcist” did in the late 70s, is a genuinely remarkable Hollywood film. Give it a watch tonight. Happy Halloween!