Ever heard of the term skin deep? Patrick Bateman might seem shallow and merely skin deep, but not when you look from his perspective. But then again, isn’t that the case for every human being? This is the focus of the superb “American Psycho.”
“American Psycho” tells the story of Patrick Bateman. Bateman is played by Christian Bale, in one of the most electrifying performances of the best performances in the past ten years. Bateman is a young, very wealthy New York banking executive. On the outside, he’s perfect in every way, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Bateman, like Travis Bickle, wakes up every morning and goes through a rigorous routine where he strives to perfect his body through sit-ups and different shampoos. He seems flawless on the outside, without a hit of insanity. But as the title suggests, that is not true.
Patrick Bateman, who is the perfect conformist, is also the most perfectly disguised serial killer. Why does he does he kill? Simply, a trapped inner lust for blood. A sort of fragile desire that can break out at any second.
Some people might be put off by Bale’s performance at first, as it seems kind of stiff and unemotional. But that’s the point. Bateman has transformed himself into a conformist and molded himself in with the banker crowd, a man who can use a business card as a weapon as deadly as his chainsaw. It’s Bateman’s constant internal dialogue that truly proves Bale’s extraordinary performance. Bale handles the narration kind of like Malcolm McDowell did in “A Clockwork Orange”: revealing a young everyman as a hidden psycho before this element totally takes over their outer lives as well. This has been extremely relevant to Christian Bale today. But, I guess yelling at cinematographers isn’t as bad as hacking random bankers in the face with an ax.
“American Psycho” is directed by Mary Harron, who unfortunately hasn’t directed enough movies. She ups the suspense using many Hitchcockian techniques. The infamous chainsaw scene with the looming shadows and winding staircase looks like a scene right out of “Vertigo.” Harron directs the film’s graphic violence in a kind of ironically glorified way. It’s not the kind of film that purposely glorifies violence by inspiring kids to go saw off people’s heads, but it is rather a parody of the glorification of violence in American culture. She then ends the movie with the most perfectly devilish twist, the kind of twist that reveals a new truth about the character, but doesn’t resolve anything. There is no correct answer to the cryptic final moments. You have to decide.
“American Psycho” shows the transformation of the serial killer film and a format that all horror films really need to follow. In modern films, serial killers have transformed from psychos in leather masks to psychos in business suits. Is this a creepy suggestion that perhaps a serial killer lies within everyone?