Color, 2000, 102 mins.
Directed by Mary Harron
Starring Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Chloë Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Bill Sage, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, Jared Leto
Lionsagte (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Universal (US R1 NTSC), Entertainment in Video (UK R2 PAL), Intercom (Hungary R2 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9) / DD5.1
Color, 2000, 102 mins.
The first major American social satire posing as a slasher film since The Stepfather tackles the unenviable task of transferring novelist Brett Easton Ellis' notorious yuppie torture fest to the big screen. For the most part director Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol) and co-writer Guinevere Turner have succeeded, creating an eerie and often blackly humorous antiseptic nightmare which casts a ghoulish reflection on our recent past.
Handsome, affluent Wall Street broker Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) leads a numbing existence in which he compensates for his lack of soul or conscience by engaging in casual acts of butchery. No one is safe from his wrath, be it homeless people, prostitutes, or his fellow coworkers, whom he's willing to dispatch over something as trivial as a business card. No one around him seems to notice or even bothers to distinguish him from his fellow preening materialists. The only moral person in the film, his secretary Jean (Chloe Sevigny), views Patrick as her ideal and sets herself up for a chilly awakening, while a curious police detective (Willem Dafoe) makes repeated visits to Patrick without even scratching the surface. Or does he? Gradually Patrick's grip on sanity begins to loosen until reality and fantasy become indistinguishable, and perhaps irrelevant.
Though widely publicized thanks to its source material, the loss of leading man Leonardo DiCaprio, and a nasty scuffle with the MPAA, Lionsgate botched the American release of American Psycho by treating this ironic art film like a major blockbuster release, leaving many patrons scratching their heads. Seen outside its PR trappings, the film is quite satisfying as a brutal dissection of 1980s superficiality, particularly during Bale's hilarious and imminently quotable monologues on the finer points of Huey Lewis, Whitney Houston, and Phil Collins. The film slips a bit by placing itself in 1987 while including a strange barrage of songs recording long before and after that year (a similar flaw with The Wedding Singer), but the presentation of cutthroat yuppie self-love is dead on. All of Ellis' clinically explicit torture sequences have been removed, leaving instead a few judicious, comic book displays of bloodshed. Unfortunately this also numbs the book's analogy between the narrator's fastidious attention to detail in his personal hygiene and the fiendish care he invests into dispatching his victims. Bale still manages to make Bateman a compelling and utterly loathsome creature, all shimmering surface with muddy, poisonous waters underneath. Sevigny and Dafoe are accomplished as usual, while Leto (who seems to be making a career out of changing his hair color) has a limited but memorable role. Only Witherspoon seems out of place; even dressed in haute couture, she looks too young and giggly to play an icy society bitch. Modernist composer John Cale contributes a marvelous, minimalist score, while the scope photography provides a succession of images worthy of a fashion magazine, albeit a highly depraved one.
Though surprisingly light on supplemental material, Universal's DVD is a worthy presentation of the film. The unrated version restores two lengthy shots to Bale's threesome frolic to "Sussudio" and longer facial blood splashing during the first axe murder. Image quality is razor sharp throughout, while the 5.1 audio is used sparingly for ambient effect during musical passages and the ironic eruption of pop tunes. Apart from the theatrical trailer, the disc includes a brief featurette in which Harron and Bale explain their reasons for wanting to do the project, as well as a chaptered on-camera interview with Bale (back in his familiar Brit accent) going more in depth into his interpretations of Bateman's character, or lack thereof. All Region 2 releases of the film are intact and contain an alternate set of extras, including some chatty deleted scenes and on the set interviews with the cast and crew. A remastered collector's edition was later issued in 2008 from Lionsgate containing two new commentaries with Harron and writer Guinevere Turner, five minor deleted scenes with optional Harron commentary, video essays, a "Pornography of Violence" performance piece by Sarah Ellquist, an "80s Downtown" look at the era's relevant pop culture, and traliers and teasers. The commentaries, deleted scenes, and two of the featurettes are ported over for Lionsgate's passable Blu-ray edition of the unrated version, which looks perfectly fine in a broadcast master-y sort of way but could use a fresh scan one of these days.