A good psychological thriller is hard to find. For every Jacob’s Ladder there is 10 Revolver’s. American Psycho is one of those rare movies that belong to the former group; an intense, original and brilliantly acted thriller. Directed by Mary Harron and released in 2000, is based on the brilliant and highly successful novel, by the same name, written by Bret Easton Ellis. It stars Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, with Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Justin Theroux, Bill Sage, Chloë Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Willem Dafoe, and Samantha Mathis.
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Why is American Psycho a success? Psychological thrillers are a dime a dozen, so what puts this movie over all the other productions and imitations? Well for one thing the movie is not merely a psychological thriller. Harron effectively combines elements from the horror, black comedy and satire genre, while never loosening the sadistic atmosphere that is needed for it to qualify as a psychological thriller. Another reason it succeeds is the cast, with Bale shining in the lead role. Even though Bale would get higher fame with movies like The Prestige, The Dark Knight and The Fighter, his best performance, or at least a top contender, is found here.
The film is set in the 80s, and focuses on Wall Street yuppie Patrick Bateman (Bale), whose mental instability and bloodlust lead him to serial killing. Besides the plot line, it is the crucial that the audience goes in without any prior knowledge on the plot. The joy of American psycho lays in its surprises and unpredictability. As our hero Bateman becomes more psychotic, the audience is left to wonder what exactly is going on, if anything at all, and whether our anti-hero will survive his sudden madness. Also the film is filled with wild ramblings, one surrounding Phil Collins, and drawn out scenes. They never get boring to be honest, but once in a while you’ll wonder ‘What’s the point of this?’
This is not a film for kids. There is nudity, and gore, the story is complex and not for the faint of heart. Anybody looking for a good, and unusual thriller, will find exactly what he is looking for in American Psycho, and the complex and open ending should leave all viewers taking about the movie for weeks after they’ve seen it. At times the film can get a bit campy also, especially during one highly entertaining murder scene towards the beginning, but it all adds to the experience.
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