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Psychological Warfare

Did he or didn't he? Only the makers of the American Psycho dreamscape know for sure.

Harron, rather brilliantly, never quite lets on, though even the film's opening moment hints at the dreaminess and the fantasy of it all. What we think are drops of blood pouring down in front of a white backdrop are nothing but rivulets of dessert toppings. We can believe nothing we see or hear after that. Bateman speaks out loud, screams threats to those who treat him like a shadow, but no one pays attention. Not even his lawyer believes him when he confesses to two dozen killings; not even the cop (Willem Dafoe) investigating the disappearance of Paul Allen can conceive of Bateman committing any crime, much less murder. He's the ultimate pop-culture product, an amalgam of porn videotapes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But you can't kill with a Blockbuster card.

My business card is bigger than yours: Christian Bale in American Psycho.
Kerry Hayes
My business card is bigger than yours: Christian Bale in American Psycho.

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Rated R.

Bale plays Bateman as though he were made from chiseled concrete and corrugated cardboard. He's beautiful and anonymous, a perfect body propping up an empty head. Bateman explains he is searching for "catharsis," but when he finds none, he implodes. The man is a walking mass of nerve endings, looking for a shot of Novocain to ease his pain. If we are to assume these murders have not even taken place, then Bale manages to render Bateman as an almost sympathetic character. Perhaps he really does have feelings -- compassion? love? -- for the dowdy, lonely Jean. But he has no idea how to show them to her, save, perhaps, for shooting her skull full of nails. Or, at the very least, imagining it.

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