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Film Review: American Psycho

Updated on December 17, 2016
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Jason Wheeler is the Senior Writer and Editor at Film Frenzy. He reviews films from across the cinematic landscape.


In 2000, Mary Harron released American Psycho based on Easton Ellis' 1991 novel of the same name Starring Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Chloë Sevigny, Samantha Mathis, Mat Ross, Bill Sage, Cara Seymour, Justin Theroux, Guinevere Turner, and Reese Witherspoon, the film grossed $34.3 million at the Box Office. It spawned a sequel in 2002 starring Mila Kunis and a stage musical in 2013 starring Matt Smith.


Patrick Bateman works at his father’s company on Wall Street, courts his fiancé and spends most of his life in fancy restaurants. However he’s also a serial killer who murders people for no apparent reason and no one seems to notice or care.


The film that launched Bale's career American Psycho is a really good film, mostly because of how its main character is presented. Bateman certainly is insane, but how the insanity presents itself is quite dubious at best as there's one of two ways to interpret his mental state: the insanity actually does manifest itself as violently murdering people for the sheer thrill of it or it presents itself as him really wanting to do all those actions, having explicit fantasies about them, but never actually doing them. There's evidence for both arguments too as Bateman is an unreliable narrator.

The former interpretation is garnered by simply watching and taking the film as it is, with no one recognizing when he’s confessing and no consequences concerning Bateman’s actions. The latter interpretation, on the other hand, does have valid evidence. Near the end, he happens upon an ATM that orders him to feed the machine a stray cat. He immediately tries it, kills an old lady that sees him trying it and then is chased by police. When he shoots the cars, they explode. It’s the most apparent part of the film that presents the case of Bateman being delusional. A model also asks him what he does for a living and he responds “Murders and Executions.” She either brushes it off as him saying “Mergers and Acquisitions" or he only imagined himself saying it because he really wanted to and really did say what she inferred. Further, there's a point in the film where he's running through an apartment complex naked and carrying a chainsaw while chasing a screaming woman that nobody seems to have heard. The film also shows also a time when he confesses to a murder he committed at the beginning and the person he’s talking to calls it an impossibility because he had lunch with him in between those times.

However, that last portion could be brushed off as the man only thinking he had lunch with the other as the film criticizes the atmosphere and culture of the business world in the 1980s with everyone being so completely self-absorbed that they all look extremely similar to each other and have the exact same interests that no one can tell anyone apart. They constantly call Bateman by other names and mistake everyone else’s name too. As such the guy might have thought he was eating with the person Bateman killed, but it could have been someone else.

Honestly, the best interpretation might be a mix of the two. Bateman may have committed some of the murders, like stabbing the homeless man and punting his dog and chopping up Paul Allen with an Axe while Huey Lewis and the News plays. The higher profile killings on the other hand, like chasing the prostitute around with a chainsaw and the final killing spree, might have all been in his head.

Nevertheless, it can’t be denied that Bateman is incredibly vain and narcissistic. He describes in great detail his morning routine and how he goes about making sure he looks young and healthy and when making a porn film with two prostitutes, he’s constantly watching the mirror and camera. If the interpretation that the entire film is straightforward and Bateman really did commit every murder, it might be because he’s bored and tired of being like all the other high profile businessmen and commits all these deeds so that one day it might come out and he’ll be talked about at great length.

3 stars for American Psycho

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinion

Awards won

Awards Circuit Community Awards

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role (Christian Bale)

Chlotrudis Awards

  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Best Actor (Christian Bale)

International Horror Guild Awards

  • Best Movie

National Board of Review Awards

  • Special Recognition for excellence in filmmaking

Nominated for

Awards Circuit Community Awards

  • Best Adapted Screenplay

Camerimage Awards

  • Golden Frog

Empire Awards

  • Best British Actor (Christian Bale)

Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards

  • Best Screenplay, Adapted

London Film Critics Circle Film ALFS Awards

  • Director of the Year
  • British Actor of the Year (Christian Bale)

Online Film Critics Society Awards

  • Best Actor (Christian Bale

Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival Awards

  • Best Film


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