2000 is commonly regarded as one of the best years in cinema, but none of the films that year were as unearthly brutal and outright confronting as the hybrid opus American Psycho. Predominantly constructed as a psychological thriller, this film should rank high on anyone’s “most disturbing” film list, but as a reviewer, my catharsis from such unsettling sights was the breadth in technique and execution.
The opening credits exhibit what separates good opening titles from great ones, and that is the usage of foreshadowing. Everything, from the exquisite dishes to the slashing knife, and even the elegant font, is representative of the future events in the film. As an adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel, the poetic passages and smooth dialogue are effortlessly translated onto film, further signifying Mary Hellon’s subtlety and neutrality in her direction. Her clinical style of direction is particularly showcased when she edits Detective Kimball’s interview scene from various performance takes to deliberately confuse audiences in regards to Kimball’s thoughts.
The film boasts an impressive ensemble cast featuring Willem Defoe, Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon and Justin Theroux. As talented as all the actors in the film are, none hold up to the irrepressible Christian Bale, whose penchant for method acting is in full blossom. By spending hours in the gym and maintaining an American accent, he truly does morph into the role of a truly twisted and sick son of a bitch. He is flanked by symbols such as cigars, expensive materials and facial masks, highlighting the film’s smart investigation into the hedonistic upper class. American Psycho is undoubtedly objective and cold, and forces the audience to decide on their own personal views of the human world.
A large percentage of the film’s budget is devoted to a soundtrack full of classic 80s hits, like Walking On Sunshine, Simply Irresistible and Lady In Red. Ultimately, the most iconic usage of music in this film is when Hip To Be Square, by Huey Lewis and the News, is cranked up as Bateman viciously murders Paul Allen with a fire axe. As a film addict, I realised how the sign of a good movie is when it synchronises a famous piece of music to the scene, and perpetually associates the two in your synapses. Speaking of which, Bateman’s behaviour and violence is enormously disturbing, and is the primary reason why American Psycho is really only for adults. I learned that a sign of adulthood is not the tolerance of an R18+ movie, but rather the bravery to object to senseless violence. It’s hard not to be enticed by the techniques and performances, but if you find yourself undisturbed by the content of this film, then, to quote Reese Witherspoon’s character, “you’re inhuman”.
Rating - ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ½