Inside Pulse DVD Review – American Psycho: Killer Collector's Edition



Mary Harron


Christian Bale……….Patrick Bateman
Willem Dafoe……….Donald Kimball
Jared Leto……….Paul Allen
Reese Witherspoon……….Evelyn
Samantha Mathis……….Courtney
Josh Lucas……….Craig McDermott

Lions Gate Films presents an Edward R. Pressman production. Based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis. Written by Harron and Guinevere Turner. Running Time: 102 Minutes. Unrated (includes strong violence, sexuality, drug use and language).

The movie:

Vain – adj. 1) having no real value or significance; worthless, empty, idle, hollow, etc. 2) having or showing an excessively high regard for one’s self, looks, possessions, ability, etc.; indulging in or resulting from personal vanity; conceited.

Satire – n. 1) a literary work in which vices, follies, stupidities, abuses, etc. are held up by ridicule and contempt 2) the use of ridicule, sarcasm, irony, etc. to expose, attack, or deride vices, follies, etc.

The first definition epitomizes Patrick Bateman, a New York yuppie who works on Wall Street. The second definition exemplifies the work of author Bret Easton Ellis.

On the outside, Patrick Bateman is the man every man wishes he could be. He is properly groomed, well manicured, and has an affinity for the finer things in life – lavish dining and music from the eighties, for example. Beneath his skin and sinew, though, he hides a predatory evil. Essentially, Patrick Bateman is a guy who is driven by male’s innermost compulsions: sex, gluttony, decadence. But rational men have the propensity to stop at some point; he does not.

“I’m into murders and executions mostly,” Bateman tells a blonde-haired model in a New York nightclub. It’s interesting to note that when the two are talking Information Society’s “Pure Energy” is playing in the background. With lyrics like, “I want to know what your thinking/is there something on your mind,” it seems very tongue in cheek. This scene acts as a metaphor for how people interact with one another. We carry conversations with another and yet the banter becomes distorted and imprecise. So when Bateman says murders and executions, the model inherently assumes he said mergers and acquisitions.

Published in 1991, the Bret Easton Ellis novel came under attack by women’s groups. They claimed the book was a manual on the ways a man could kill a woman. American Psycho was so controversial that it passed from publisher to publisher. Almost as if the subject was taboo. Well, the material is fiction, not faction. It is intended to be a satire, and not to be taken seriously.

Just like the novel, the film project went through numerous hoops – screenplay revisions, directors, and leading stars. At one point Leonardo DiCaprio was attached to star and Oliver Stone to direct. That never came to fruition, as it would have alienated DiCaprio’s Titanic supporters. Upon seeing the film and imagining Stone as director, all I could envision was another Natural Born Killers. Whereas that film was a satirical look at crime and television in the 1990’s, American Psycho could have been his companion piece. A satirical look at debauchery and hedonism of New York in the eighties.

For a film whose source material is loathed by women’s groups, how ironic is it then that American Psycho was directed by a woman. Under Mary Harron’s direction she stresses Patrick Bateman’s vanity, not his blood lust. In essence, Bateman has all the vital attributes that make us human: blood, hair, and skin. But he is emotionally detached. Bateman even admits that his only emotions are “greed and disgust.” Everything else is inconsequential.

His narcissism is unmistakable. He has a strict diet and a rigorous exercise routine. In his shower Bateman has a row of deep rich cleansing gels that he uses to exfoliate. When he stares in a mirror and removes his facial masque it’s as if he is revealing the façade he hides from the world around him.

There are moments in the film where Patrick Bateman let’s his guard down, teasing his breaking point. One such scene involves business cards and the envy it stirs up. Almost as if an inadequate card is a metaphor for sexual insecurity. Even if you have the expensive clothes, plush offices, and high salaries, the card is the best way to back up your status level. When Bateman pulls out his card, he tells his colleagues the finish is bone. Thinking he is the alpha male, his smirk turns to dread looking at another’s card. A colleague who looks so much like Bateman; they both wear glasses and have the same barber. Though Bateman admits his haircut is better.

The murders in both the film and the book have to be taken with a grain of salt, because of the methods Patrick Bateman exercises. He murders a number of people in malicious ways. Some are played for humor – like killing Wall Street yuppie Paul Allen with an axe while Huey Lewis and the News admit it’s hip to be square. Or when he chases a prostitute with a chainsaw wearing nothing but white tennis shoes. The murders may be real or unreal, but that’s not the point of the action. Bateman kills because he finds it helps him unwind his frustrations.

Thus, and rightly so, Patrick Bateman is an allegory for the malevolence of the fashionable wealthy.

Score: 8/10

The DVD:

VIDEO: How does it look?

Having missed the opportunity to purchase the unrated edition of American Psycho when it was first released, I was glad Lions Gate Films had the great idea to re-release this film on DVD. And release it the same week Batman Begins hit theaters no less. Five years after its theatrical debut, Mary Harron’s film looks great on DVD. The lighting gives the characters weight while the shadows define them. Attention to detail is shown in the clothing attire of Patrick Bateman: his power ties and midnight blue suits. Little, if any, imperfections with the print. The film is presented in a “matted” widescreen format preserving the 2.35:1 aspect ration of its original theatrical exhibition.

Score: 8.5/10

AUDIO: How does it sound?

This film comes with two audio options – 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 Dolby Digital. The 5.1 soundtrack is excellent. Both the dialogue and the posh eighties music fills up your room to much delight. Gotta love hearing such 80’s staples as Huey Lewis and the News, Genesis, and Robert Palmer. Each song is crucial to the story, giving credence to Patrick Bateman’s behavior.

Score: 8/10

SPECIAL FEATURES: A Killer Edition with commentaries, deleted scenes, and two lengthy features!!!

If you have never seen American Psycho before it’s best to watch the film first and ruminate a bit. Formulate your own idea before listening to the director’s commentary. Mary Harron explains the entire production. She also analyzes the Patrick Bateman character.

Scenes were altered as were music selections. When the production supervisor was unable to get the rights to Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All”, they used the London Philharmonic version instead. Discourse that happens early in the book now takes place in the middle of the film, and it works.

It’s tough to judge the best production story. Two stand out, nevertheless. One is how Harron and Christian Bale prepared to film the sex scenes. Bale studied two porno videos. He got one and she gave him another. The next day Bale comes to the set with stick figures and begins to act out the different positions.

The other story is the crimson mask Patrick Bateman gets while chopping up Paul Allen. Half of his face is splattered, while the other side is unblemished. So when he changes his seating position the audience sees his immaculate face. It gives off a two-face impression.

The commentary by co-writer Guinevere Turner, like Mary Harron’s, is down-to-earth. She shares more stories on the making of the film. Like when she walked into a movie trailer that smelled like egg sandwiches. Turner turns to see two actresses who portray rotting corpses eating.

She also admits that author Bret Easton Ellis liked the script. His only problem was the little moonwalk Bateman does after he kills Paul Allen. Yep, Michael Jackson has a strong affect on people. Even serial killers.

Before listening to the commentaries, I looked at the packaging and wondered why they didn’t record a commentary together. It’s easy to assume that there were scheduling problems. Listening to the commentaries, though, they sound better on their own.

There are five deleted scenes that can be watched with or without commentary by Mary Harron. “People…wanna get caught” is a nightclub scene with double-edge dialogue by Dafoe’s detective character trying to get some information out of Bateman. “I’m Leaving” is about a strung out colleague who has a breakdown. It’s an interesting contract to the rest. No one is listening to each other’s concerns. Thus representing the movie’s hallmark. “You want me to…Floss with it?” has Reese Witherspoon’s character standing up to Bateman because she doesn’t want to have sex. So Bateman improvises. “Is it a receptacle tip?” is a high comic sex scene but Harron says by this point there was too much darkness in the film. “Never date a Vassar Girl” was a scene straight from the book. It was at the beginning but by this point Harron and Turner felt the film was overloaded with the colleagues talking.

Following the two commentaries are two documentaries that play as a series of sound bites strung together.

American Psycho: Book to Screen is a 49-minute feature that breaks down the subject material into three categories: The Book (10:25); The Deal (18:50); and The Film (15:13). Also included is a video essay by Holly Willis entitled “The Pornography of Killing”.

For the sound bites we don’t get comments from the cast and crew – the only exception being a few remarks by Harron and Turner. What we get are interview subjects like Gavin Smith, critic and editor of Film Comment, and Gil Reavill, crime journalist and author. Each individual has plenty of information to dispense. At first, the documentary is enjoyable. You get a greater sense of the film by listening to these people tell stories. But 49 minutes with nothing but sound bites is a little much. Three Legged Cat Productions, the company that produced this documentary, failed to include breathing room. Scenes from the film would have been a nice diversion.

Still, when you watch the documentary you get enlightening facts, such as how the Bret Easton Ellis novel was widely misread. It explored the extremes of social behavior with Magna comic-type of violence. It is also a novel (and film) that slides between genres; a brilliant social satire. It’s funny to know that Gavin Smith’s ideal Bateman was Tom Cruise. That’s about as convincing as casting George Clooney to play Batman. Oops, my mistake.

The 80’s: Downtown (31:43) explores a number of subjects: When did the 80’s start?; Dining as theatre in the 80’s New York; the 80’s Look; the Dark Side of the 80’s; and the 80’s End.

The start of the eighties is a very debatable subject. Some say it was when MTV premiered on August 1, 1981. Others say it was when John Lennon was killed in December of 1980.

The architectural design of apartments and living abodes were instrumental in magnifying the dining atmosphere in New York. With cramped rooms, people would go out and wine and dine. Hot restaurants were a three-month fad. The proliferation of sex clubs like the Hellfire Club in New York City were a representation of the eighties. Qualities included power, domination, and intimidation.

The man who transcended the 80’s look was Boy George. And boy did he make an impact. Without him, people wouldn’t have had the initiative to have big hair, big shoulder pads, high heels, and apply their makeup with a paint sprayer. James St. James, author and former “club kid”, goes to the extreme when he admits pop singer Cyndi Lauper made the “Hiroshima bag lady look” (which is basically wearing everything and the kitchen sink) hip.

Eighties dark side and its conclusion are almost interchangeable. AIDS became a prevalent subject since the first documented case was in 1981. Then there’s Regeanomics and Black Tuesday (stock market crash). New York was once a hotbed for artistic merit. Not any longer. Styles and attitudes have changed.

Wow, what a difference a decade makes.

TV Spots and trailers for American Psycho and a trailer gallery are also included. In the gallery you can view trailers for the Swimming with Sharks: Special Edition, The Rules of Attraction, High Tension and Undead.

Score: 7.5/10

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