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American Psycho: Unrated Version

Bret Easton Ellis's novel American Psycho was controversial long before the movie was made. Ellis's original publisher passed on it when women on the staff complained about its subject matter. Vintage picked it up as a trade paperback original, but the media had reacted dimly to its efforts to parody Reagan-age consumerism by making a Wall Street yuppie a serial killer. Like his true predecessor, John O'Hara, Ellis's concern is to catalog the fashions, eateries, and social rituals of the rich. He describes the corpses of the book's victims with all the gravity that he presents the facial gels his anti-hero, Patrick Bateman, uses in the morning. Today, American Psycho is only a cult-item read among alternative 'zine types. The movie of American Psycho ended up being just as troubled to make. Director Mary Harron originally had Leonardo DiCaprio tapped to play Bateman, but for whatever reason, he passed, and Harron ended up with Christian Bale. And the movie, too, will end up as only a cult item, at best. American Psycho is about Bateman's growing homicidal obsession. Engaged to a distracted woman (Reese Witherspoon), he spends his spare time picking up hookers and filming them having sex, and then torturing them before killing them with increasingly elaborate methods. His competitiveness with colleagues such as Jared Leto and others (over such things as their virtually identical business cards) can find no other expression than murder. American Psycho is an episodic film, the only "suspense" generated by the investigations of a private eye (Willem Dafoe) and the potential fate of Bateman's secretary (Chloë Sevigny). Director Harron handles all this stuff in a routine manner, without any real visual zest, and turns American Psycho into a diatribe about the natural evil of men, who are (according to the full text of the film) both violent and futile at the same time. Universal's DVD edition of American Psycho comes with a widescreen transfer (anamorphic 2.35:1) that adequately captures the film's adequate cinematography, and supplements include a 10-minute interview session with Bale (wherein he says mostly predictable, feminist-approved things about playing a violent character), a "making-of" featurette (in which director Harron makes it clear that she thinks Bateman is typical of all males), a theatrical trailer, an extensive text-only production history, and reasonably detailed cast and crew filmographies. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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