American Psycho

Paving the way for his role as the brooding Batman of 21st-century cinema, Christian Bale played one of the great psychopaths in film history in 2000’s American Psycho. Patrick Bateman (Bale) is a trend-obsessed, upwardly mobile day-trader who channels his less socially acceptable aggression into nights of slashing up bums and humiliating and murdering prostitutes. In a brilliant motif of dark humor from Brett Easton Ellis, author of the novel the film follows closely, Bateman continually admits his crimes to his friends and coworkers (played by a cast that includes Jared Leto, Chloë Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Willem Dafoe and Samantha Mathis), but they smile and think he’s making metaphors for his drive as a Wall Street go-getter.

That’s the point. Bateman isn’t a refined killer like Hannibal Lecter or a wordless monster like Michael Myers. He’s what inspired the title of psychologist Martha Stout’s book The Sociopath Next Door, which has the stomach-churning tagline, “1 in 25 Americans secretly has no conscience and can do anything at all without feeling guilty.” Everything that makes Bateman a monster makes him a yuppie. Bale, the former teen star of Empire of the Sun and Newsies, utilizes his handsome and commanding presence, driving home the point that Bateman could pass as the man parents want to see their daughters bring home.

Bale’s real-life stepmother is more socially astute; his dad is married to feminist Gloria Steinem, who, ironically, tried to prevent the publishing of the original novel. 11:55 p.m. Friday and Saturday. River Oaks Theatre, 2009 West Gray. For tickets and information, call 713-866-8881 or visit $8.25.
Fri., April 4, 11:55 p.m.; Sat., April 5, 11:55 p.m., 2008

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Nick Keppler