Movie night again, here we go. This time, it was my suggestion and I felt a strange urge to watch ‘American Psycho’ starring Christian Bale.
As you know, I have a ‘love/hate’ relationship with Christian Bale in that I usually love his performances but hate him as a person. This came after listening to him shouting at another member of the production on the set of ‘Terminator: Salvation’. It brought back unpleasant flashbacks from my first job which I hated and I was treated in a similar manner and when Bale shouted at that guy which was not his right to do, I lost any respect that I had for him. I don’t care how good of an actor you are, don’t talk to other members of staff like that because then people on the internet are going to call you a ‘fuckhead’. He may not be a fuckhead in real life but in the brief glimpse behind the curtain, all I’ve seen is Christian Bale acting like a fuckhead.
However, an individual who is way smarter than me advised me that sometimes it is necessary to separate the person from the art and so I’m putting my simmering hatred for the person that is ‘Christian Bale’ and taking a deeper look into one of his most iconic characters, ‘Patrick Bateman’.
‘American Psycho’ of course follows Patrick through his life as an executive of some kind but also his little side hobby of being the world’s most totally impractical serial killer. Somehow, this guy’s never been caught and therein may be the point to the whole thing. I’d never seen ‘American Psycho’ before and that it would be fairly straight forward as these films usually are. I haven’t read the book and so this film is my only reference to this story. As it happens, the film is really open-ended and open to interpretation. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Who is Patrick Bateman?
Like I say, he works as an investment banker in New York but in the whole film, I never actually saw him do any work but rather have lunch and nights out with his executive friends. It seems that he’s striving for perfection in his professional and personal life. One of the first scenes takes us through Patrick’s morning routine as he showers and shows the audience the products he uses to exfoliate and how many stomach crunches he can do, and he obviously takes care of himself. He has a very nice apartment in a prestigious area of town and has a nice office on a high floor. He’s also 100% obsessed with himself and a complete narcissist. I’m beginning to understand why Christian Bale was cast… nope…. We’re leaving that to one side.
But staying with people I don’t like much anymore… well… maybe that’s a bit harsh. Jared Leto is in this film and this appearance is from the days when he was a young actor and he was in things like ‘Urban Legend’ and of course, this. I just want to say, I don’t think Jared Leto fit his character (Paul Allen) at all. He’s not the smug, executive type. He’s the nice, wholesome, ‘boy next door’ type. Yes, he’s squashed that image in recent years with some of the roles he’s played like his character in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ and of course, he was Joker in ‘Suicide Squad’ but back then, he was the ‘nice guy’. Also, Patrick hates Paul because he’s perceived to be more successful in every way. He does the same job but he has a better reputation and nicer business cards but the thing is… he doesn’t look like he has all these things.
Height is a very big factor. Somehow, Jared Leto looks taller now than he did in the early 2000’s. It’s almost like he hadn’t had his growth spurt yet even though he was about 30 when he was in that movie. Or maybe he just looks short next to Bale? How can I believe that Paul Allen is better than Patrick Bateman if he looks like he should be his personal assistant? Walking behind him taking notes. You know what I mean?
There’s a sequence involving business cards that looks like an odd parody of the American ‘yuppie’ lifestyle. All the ‘big wigs’ are gathered around the long, wooden table and they’re comparing business card which all basically look the same with only miniscule differences but Paul shows his and everyone’s impressed with his except Patrick who looks super triggered at the sight of this business that is marginally different from his. All the cards have the person listed as ‘Vice President’ as well which was a funny little detail.
What I was looking out for was the trigger for Patrick’s killings. After the ‘card incident’, Patrick berates a homeless man, then stabs him to death before kicking his dog to death as well. I hated that bit. I love animals. There’s a bit towards the end with a kitten that frightened me.
At first, it seems that Patrick kills when his dominance is challenged. He kills Paul Allen of the reasons listed above. Whilst his triggers are hard to pin down which is tricky because the triggers are how we know that a murder is about to happen, he does have a quirk… and its music. Patrick has a vast music collection and when he begins to play a song, (I’ll use ‘Hip to be Square’ by ‘Huey Lewis and the News’ as an example) and he begins to talk about the song, its history, the history of the artist and the meanings behind the song, that’s when you know something bad is going to happen. That’s what happens with ‘Hip to be Square’. That’s the song he plays right before he kills Paul Allen. With an axe. To the face. Ouch.
It’s also after his first killing that we see how bad he is at being a serial killer. Come on, Patrick. Everyone knows that newspaper doesn’t stop blood from staining the carpet. You need to use plastic. You know, that stuff your raincoat is made of. Also, clean off the blood on your face before you remove the rain coat that’s covering your very expensive suit.
Patrick then drags the body through the lobby of his building, trailing blood and then hails a fucking taxi to take him to presumably the dump site. How has this guy not been caught? Well, that may be the very question that leads to the end. But we’re not there yet.
So right when I thought that he’s triggered when he’s challenged, things take a turn.
He picks up two prostitutes and calls himself ‘Paul Allen’ so at this point, I’m thinking that he’s trying to cover up the murder but then the idiot takes them to his own apartment. He names the girls ‘Christie’ and Sabrina. One is a high class call girl and the other is picked up off a street corner. Right when he put ‘Genesis’ on, I thought things weren’t going to end well. As it happens, Bateman has sex with both of them and pulls another idiotic move by recording it. Afterwards, Patrick uses a number of tools to cut and beat the girls before they leave.
I’m confused as to why he did this. How did he know that they wouldn’t go to the police? Yes, he told them his name was ‘Paul Allen’ but he took them to his apartment and he taped himself having sex with them.
Whilst all this is going on, Patrick is engaged to Evelyn (Reece Witherspoon) and it honestly doesn’t feel like either one of them is into it. Especially not Patrick since he’s having an affair with an acquaintance Courtney Rawlinson (Samantha Mathis) and Patrick is also suspicious that Evelyn is cheating on him but he’s not that fussed. It honestly does feel like an arranged marriage or a marriage of convenience. It baffles me why those two are together and what they get out of their relationship. They don’t seem to enjoy each other’s company. I’m also surprised that Evelyn didn’t get killed.
Through the whole film, we are seeing the constant deterioration of Patrick’s mental state. The moment of maximum crazy and the bit that will forever be burned in my memory is when Patrick picks up a hesitant Christie for a second time and another lady, Elizabeth (Guinevere Turner) and takes them to Paul Allen’s apartment. Long story short, another threesome gets underway and as Patrick and Elizabeth are going at it, Christie tries to slip out only to see that blood is leaking through the sheets. She now knows that Patrick is a total nutter and tries to get away, discovers a lot of bodies. It would seem that Patrick has been using Paul’s place as a dumping ground which is another bonehead move since his ‘disappearance’ is being investigated by Detective Donald Kimble (Willem Dafoe)
Using the most subtle tactic that Patrick has ever come up with, he chases her through the apartment, totally naked, shouting and revving a chainsaw whilst his target screams and bangs on doors. I wouldn’t have thought that this would be normal in this type of posh building so again, I’ll ask the question. How has Patrick not been caught?
Well… that brings us close to the ending.
Eventually, Patrick hits rock bottom and goes from largely stabbing his victims to a shooting spree with an old lady, at least three cops, a doorman and a janitor added to his victims list and a couple were because he ran into the wrong building. He then calls his lawyer and confesses to all the murders that he has committed.
The next morning, Patrick goes to Paul’s apartment to clean up but finds the apartment has been renovated and is up for sale. The person selling it tells him that Paul Allen doesn’t live there.
Now I’m thinking that this is a ‘Shyamalan’ twist where none of it happened and all the killings were just hallucinations which would make sense because of the numerous times that he should have been caught.
Patrick meets his lawyer and once again tries to confess particularly to killing Paul Allen but his lawyer tells him that couldn’t have happened because he’d just had dinner with Paul Allen in London. Patrick goes to sit back with his friends and this is the speech that he gives inside his own head of course.
‘There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it I have now surpassed. My pain is constant and sharp, and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact, I want my pain to be inflicted on others, and no one to escape. My punishment continues to elude me. My confession has meant nothing.’
I do like this film and it’s similar to why I liked ‘Joker’. It’s a thinking film. The actions and thoughts of the main character is on display to be picked apart and discussed by the audience. There are video essays on YouTube of people picking apart the plot and Patrick Bateman, especially the ending.
What do I think?
I think it was all in his head. When I think back through the events of the film, the fine details, there are big questions as to whether Patrick Bateman is real. He makes a couple of statements at the start as to how there is an ‘idea of Patrick Bateman’ and that there is ‘no real me’. So maybe Patrick Bateman is a character that he has created to hide all of his bad thoughts. There are a few instances throughout the film where Patrick is mistaken for other people or maybe that could be a joke about how 80’s guys in suits all look alike. That’s probably not the case. I don’t know.
Maybe the culture has something to do with it as well. It’s filled with stereotypes. It’s the guys in the suits meeting in the fancy restaurants with cigars and they snort coke in the bathroom that’s cut with their American Express cards that they then use to pay for lunch whilst making other meal plans.
With a budget of $7 Million, ‘American Psycho’ only made just over $34 Million but Bale’s performance was praised and the film itself was praised. It has since gained a cult following.
Everything else aside, Christian Bale did do an excellent job. I’ll say that, OK.
At least he was chilled out on this venture.
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