American Psycho is a film that sticks with you. From the fast-paced indifferent dialogue of business tycoons to the free-falling chainsaw murders, it is a film entirely of its own creation. It displays a unflinching critique of capitalism in all its failed glory taking its problems to an absurdist extreme. The film is part drama and part thriller with a healthy dose of dark comedy thrown in as well. Unlike other directors, Mary Harron understands details. Every scene within American Psycho is intense in its grandiose brutality, yet it is disturbing in its detailed obscenity and excess. The scene when the executives compare business cards is cinematic brilliance without compare.
American Psycho, as its name implies, follows the life of socio/psychopath Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), a Wall Street tycoon who has a penchant for murdering coworkers, hookers and anybody he deems socially worthless. The film begins with Patrick leading a rather normal upper class lifestyle, complete with business lunches, modern apartment fixtures and an attachment to the newest forms of technology. As the story progresses it is made apparent that Patrick finds others behavior extremely irritating, particularly those of his coworker and rival Paul Allen (Jared Leto). Patrick invites Paul out for dinner and drinks, which eventually leads both of them back to Patrick's apartment. After an inspired analysis of Huey Lewis and The News albums, Partrick proceeds to butcher Paul with an ax. At this point, the film dismisses all rationality and follows Patrick on his rampage, in which he avoid the interrogations of Detective Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe) while murdering more people. Patrick becomes more and more violent as the narrative continues, ultimately leading to a night of rampage in which he kills a handful of people publicly. After his killing spree, Patrick calls his lawyer to confess his actions up until this point. The movie then cuts to Patrick at lunch with his coworkers as though nothing has happened. Patrick runs into his lawyer and asks about the message he left, assuming it was a joke his lawyer laughs it off and tells him to have a good day. Patrick returns to his friends and mumbles his desire to kill everyone in the restaurant, to which his friends chastise him and dismiss his statement. Viewers are left with Patrick scanning the room in paranoia while wondering whether the scenes of the film were from Patrick's reality or a world of his fantasies.
While I could write extensively on the corporate and capitalist critiques evident in this film, I want to instead draw attention to the issues of the current MPAA rating system. Upon its initial release, American Psycho received an NC-17 rating. It is easy to assume that this rating was a result of the film violence, particularly the scene in which Patrick drops a chainsaw on a fleeing prostitute. However, as Mary Harron notes, in the fascinating documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, the committee found the film worthy of an NC-17 rating solely for its portray of female-on-female sexual intercourse. This choice on profane imagery reflects an issue in regards to the ideals promoted through the current rating imagery. As many of you can imagine, a multitude of films receive R ratings despite showing countless images of heterosexual intercourse, however, the moment homosexual sex occurs it is deemed unfit for viewing. I find this to be extremely problematic and would ask you as viewers to consider what goes into our current rating system and to demand a more solid rubrick for a ratings system, as opposed to the current system which is terribly wishy-washy and reflective of WASP ideals.
Do yourself a favor and watch this film immediately. Its unfortunate ratings issue meant that it was overlooked upon its initial release, but the Blu-ray edition provides a justice to the film and is well worth owning.