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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

American Psycho

If you're anything like me(you poor thing!), you've probably watched some movie franchises out of order. Such is the case with this week's excursion, American Psycho. I saw the sequel* on Netflix's Instant option a few weeks before I decided to start this blog, and it definitely makes the first one look pretty good in comparison...which is faint praise, at best.

Based on the controversial novel, American Psycho tells the story of Patrick Bateman, a 1980's Yuppie who is obsessed with his own image and success. He and his fellow pretentious co-workers are so constantly worried about one-upping each other, they barely even recognize one another when not at work. They constantly exchange business cards to show off their own affluence, and spend most nights hanging out in trendy retaurants and nightclubs.

Patrick hates most of them, enough so that he decides to murder one, a co-worker named Paul Allen(played by Jared Lehto). He invites Paul back to his apartment, puts on a Huey Lewis CD, and proceeds to hack Paul to death. He then dismembers the body, packs a suitcase of Paul's belongings, and books him on a flight to Paris.

And no one notices. After getting away with it, Bateman becomes bolder: he kills a homeless man, he beats up(and possibly murders) a couple of hookers, he even gets into a shootout with the police, and kills an animal or two, all to an authentically cheesy '80's soundtrack of Whitney Houston, Huey Lewis and Genesis. Or does he?

See, everything Patrick does in the film is ambiguous. Everything. For instance, after he kills Paul Allen, several characters claim to have seen or spoken to Paul. And the shootout is after a hallucinatory sequence where an ATM asks him to feed it a cat. While some films benefit from their confusing narratives(movies like Memento and The Machinist come to mind), it gets a little annoying after awhile. The cast is great--we have Christian Bale, Lehto, Reese Witherspoon Chloe Sevigny as the nervous secretary, the still-smoking-hot Samantha Mathis and Willem Dafoe(he plays a detective who isn't sure if Bateman killed Paul Allen or not)--so the problem isn't with the cast. It's the script. A little less of the dream-sequence-y hallucinations, and a little more of Bateman playing cat-and-mouse with those around him would have helped the film a lot.

By the end, after he terrorizes everyone from his secretary to a confused chinese laundromat worker, we're not even sure he IS Patrick Bateman. Not helping matters any, he calls his lawyer and confesses to crimes that apparently were portrayed in the novel, but not the film. It's like that scene in The Goonies where the Asian kid rambles on about the frickin' octopus, after all of the octopus scenes were taken out of the film.

And yet, I have to admit that I was entertained. Watching him dance to Huey Lewis and the News before killing Paul, seeing him and his co-workers practically wet their pants over each others' business cards, and seeing him go stark raving mad at people who never seem to react is all pretty funny stuff. It just wasn't much to make up a thriller. Much better workplace slasher films have been made, like Severance, Office Killer, and Intruder just off the top of my head. But in spite of the plotholes and lingering questions(what was the scene with the realtor about??? ), I still found myself amused by the story. Seeing him working out to Texas Chainsaw Massacre is pretty damned funny, as is the "murders and executions" line in the film. I just wish I had seen this one before all of those others. Maybe it would have seemed more original to me a decade ago, when it first came out. Another one that gets 3 killer trees outta 5.

So, what did I learn from this week's slasher film?
-Some of these movies have expiration dates.
-Christian Bale can actually act, without doing the "growly voice"(seriously, does ANYBODY understand his dialogue in the Batman films??).
-I can and will watch Samantha Mathis in anything, at any time....hubba.

*I may decide to talk about the sequel as well, at some later date, but it was pretty generic. And the connection to this film is practically non-existent, so it's kind of a ripoff to watch it thinking it's a sequel. Hey, buyer beware right?