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American Psycho



Released: April 20th 2000 UK)

Director: Mary Harron

Stars: Christian Bale, Justin Theroux

Certificate: 18 (UK)

Reviewer:Saahil Dama

Having a psycho, or a lunatic, as the protagonist does make things a whole lot easier for a director. He/she doesn’t have to justify anything the protagonist does, because all the acts he commits, regardless of how unfeasible or irrational they are, are forgiven since he is a psychopath. The ‘W’ word of inquisition is tossed out of the window. For instance, in this film, Patrick Bateman hacks people to death, tries to feed a cat into an ATM machine and hides decapitated heads in his freezer, and all of these atrocities pass unquestioned, for he is, as the title proclaims, the American Psycho.

Americans have really begun scaring me now. American Pie came up with some of the most outrageous sex ideas ever, American Beauty was a thoroughly unsettling experience and American Psycho is eerily disturbing. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a narcissistic banker living alone in a posh New York apartment. He lives a stereotypical banker life – have a girlfriend, sleep with another, a music afiocinado and flirting with his secretary – nothing that calls specific attention to him. However, the banker is just a facade he adopts to fit into the normal world – a Dr. Jekyll to his inner My. Hyde. He has an alter-ego residing inside him, one that has only two emotions – greed and and disgust – and wants to kill people in the most remorseless and sadistic ways imaginable, because that is his definition of catharsis. Patrick Bateman isn’t merely misanthropic, he is quite literally the epitome of cruelty. He is a the kind of person who watches The Texas Chainsaw Massacres while exercising, and for whom the hardest conundrum in life is whether he wants to get his next victim with a nail-gun or a chainsaw.

The character of a straight-faced murderer is not just disturbing, but also funny, in a morbid way. Despite having a dark and uncanny atmosphere, the ironies and the obvious pleasure that Bateman gets from heinously murdering hobos, peers, hookers and even random pedestrians with utter indifference makes you cringe and smile at the same time. Everytime an axe hacks into his co-worker’s flesh with a dull thud as Hip To Be Square plays in the background, you can’t help but guiltily laugh to yourself. The murders follow a well established and contemplated about modus operandi and have an aftermath too. Bateman doesn’t just kill people. He premeditates the commission, derives ecstasy during the act, and then sits back and relaxes, smoking a cigar, while admiring his handiwork. Bale carries the role of this two-faced beast with perfection. His poker-face maintains the facade, but his frigid gaze gives away the rather inconvenient and a whole lot frightening truth.

What is interesting, is that the film maintains a light-air through the gruesome occurings, like a reflection of the protagonist himself. It talks about visiting cards, about the plethora of cosmetics Patrick uses, often to the sound of a piano cortet or otherwise ebullient music in the background. Even Patrick’s apartment is refreshing with clean, white walls, which is an amusing dichotomy with Patrick himself.

Not everything is froody with the film. A character like Patrick Bateman could have become a modern-day icon, if only he had more deeper and an insight had been presented into his psyche. His murders, his vicious idiosyncrasies all seem superficial, making the viewers wonder who he really is, or what made him this way. Between masquerading as a lackadaisical banker and a rabid psychopath, he never really offers an explanation to why he is the man he is. Childhood trauma, car accident, sexual harassment – nothing.

Another disappointing is that the movie introduces too many people without offering a satisfactory ending to all. There is a detective who just doesn’t appear in the last thirty minutes, people whose purpose is only to stand by the side of the normal Patrick, a mistress who purpose on screen remains mysterious and even a girlfriend who seems to have been tossed into this mayhem for no reason whatsoever. These, however, are trivial things in the bigger scale of things.

The movie has an ambiguous ending, and this by far, is my favourite part of the film. It lets you choose your own path to reach a satisfying conclusion, but there’s one, and the most likely, that asks a really provoking question – who really is more beastly, Patrick or the world? After Patrick commits his crimes, the world and its people try to bury them. Towards the ending, Patrick wanders into his peers apartment where he has stashed away many of the bodies, to find it clean and painted sparkly white, as if nothing ever happened there. The landlady creeps up to him for behind and asks him to leave and to never return, which if pondered upon, is a ghastly and horrifying concept.

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