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American Psycho

It's just as well a woman directed "American Psycho." She's transformed a novel about blood lust into a movie about men's vanity. A male director might have thought Patrick Bateman, the hero of "American Psycho," was a serial killer because of psychological twists, but Mary Harron sees him as a guy who's prey to the usual male drives and compulsions. He just acts out a little more.

Most men are not chain-saw killers; they only act that way while doing business. Look at the traders clawing each other on the floor of the stock exchange. Listen to used-car dealers trying to dump excess stock on one another. Consider the joy with which one megacorp stock-raids another and dumps its leaders. Study such films as "In the Company of Men," "Glengarry Glen Ross," "Boiler Room" and the new "The Big Kahuna." It's a dog-eat-dog world, and to survive you'd better be White Fang.

As a novel, Bret Easton Ellis' 1991 best seller was passed from one publisher to another like a hot potato. As a film project, it has gone through screenplays, directors and stars for years. It was snatched up for Oliver Stone, who planned to star Leonardo DiCaprio, before ending up back in Harron's arms with Christian Bale in the lead. (To imagine this material in Stone's hands, recall the scene in Ken Russell's "The Music Lovers" where Tchaikovsky's head explodes during the "1812 Overture," then spin it out to feature length.)

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The film regards the male executive lifestyle with the devotion of a fetishist. There is a scene where a group of businessmen compare their business cards, discussing the wording, paper thickness, finish, embossing, engraving and typefaces, and they might as well be discussing their phalli. Their sexual insecurity is manifested as card envy. They carry on grim rivalries expressed in clothes, offices, salaries and being able to get good tables in important restaurants. It is their uneasy secret that they make enough money to afford to look important, but are not very important. One of the film's running jokes is that Bateman looks so much like one of his colleagues (Jared Leto) that they are mistaken for each other. (Their faces aren't really identical, but they occupy empty space in much the same way.)

One suggested change: require rent-stabilized tenants to verify their income.
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Roger Ebert

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Film Credits

American Psycho movie poster

American Psycho (2000)

Rated R For Strong Violence, Sexuality, Drug Use and Language

100 minutes


Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman

Willem Dafoe as Donald Kimball

Chloe Sevigny as Jean

Jared Leto as Paul Allen

Reese Witherspoon as Evelyn

Samantha Mathis as Courtney

Directed by

Written by

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