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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » American Psycho
American Psycho
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Review by Jeremy Kleinman | posted August 23, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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The Movie
Although both the book and the movie of "American Psycho" created controversy for its violent content and the treatment of women. Nevertheless, while the film's protagonist claims that the problem is that there was nothing beneath, this is a complex film with a lot beneath. The film is both a social satire of the life of the young upper crust in the late 1980's as well as an old fashioned monster-movie type horror film.

The film is a bit of an enigma and the filmmakers are sufficiently comfortable with their vision of the story and its meaning that they take a somewhat divergent approach at times. For instance, while Bateman is once again a character who takes a meticulous approach to every minute detail of his physical being and appearance, as well as the satisfaction of his desires for success, material wealth and in some frame of mind, his blood lust. At the beginning of the film, Bateman's momentary indulgences of his imagination are clearly distinguishable from what is really happening around him, as he screams at people, only to see them absolutely unaffected moments later. Later on in the film, these divergences become more difficult to distinguish. There has been much discussion as to whether the viewer should take what he or she sees at face value, or if such would be a grevious mistake. The fact that the film does not always provide a clear answer adds to the film's enjoyment and makes it much more challenging than it would otherwise be as simply a "monster" movie.

Make no mistake, no matter what subtext might exist, there are a number of scenes with extremely graphic violence which are not for those of weak constitutions. Nevertheless, the film is driven by a strong performance by Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, and an enjoyable supporting cast which includes Chloe Sevigny, Samantha Mathis, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto (Angel from Fight Club) and Willem Defoe as a detective who crosses paths with Bateman in investigating the disappearance of a colleague. The interactions between Defoe's character and Bateman are among a number of highly entertaining scenes in the film. Also good for a laugh are the scenes in which Bateman waxes philosophic on 1980's music giants like Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, and the venerable Huey Lewis and the News and the many scenes in which he is overcome by a mix of rage and envy when his efforts to create aesthetic and materialistic perfection are feted by his contemporaries, sometimes despite their own best efforts to the contrary.

Whether the environment of the 1980's, the de facto caste system which seems to exist among the Manhattan professional scene, or something within Bateman is to blame for his transformation is not always clear. The film is ultimately made more enjoyable, however, because it does not answer all questions, much in the same way that Fight Club benefitted from its enigmatic nature and its refusal to ultimately tell the viewer where to go.

Finally, it warrants mentioning that despite the film's controversy and the gruesomeness portrayed rather explicitly in the film, the film was written and directed by women. Whether there was pressure to not tone it down as a result, or if it was simply the vision of screenplay writers Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner is not known, but it makes the film even more intriguing nonetheless.

The Picture
American Psycho is presented in Anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ration of 2.35:1. The transfer of the film looks quite good during a good portion of the film, however, toward the end of the film, there is some problem with darker areas of the screen which appear to be grainy and somewhat discolored. It is only really perceptible in the final 20 minutes of the film. Whether it is the result of watching the film on a large screen projection television or if it is a problem with the transfer is not entirely clear, but, due to the clarity of the rest of the film, it is definitely noticeable.

The Sound
American Psycho is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. The film's sound has been transferred exceedingly well, and the dialogue, chilling sound effects of screams, chainsaws and Phil Collins are quite clear and the viewer need not adjust the volume at any point during the film to enjoy it.

Bonus Materials
I was really hoping for a director's commentary track on this DVD. Alas, there is none. The DVD does contain cast and crew biographies, production notes, the theatrical trailer, a short featurette on the making of the film and a fairly in-depth interview with Christian Bale. Both the featurette and the interview help to clue the viewer in as to a number, differences between the film and the book, and the subtleties of the film and things that viewers might have otherwise missed. Nevertheless, after so many innane films with director's commentary, it's presence is definitely missed. Viewing the extras should definitely take place after viewing the film so no scenes are ruined for the viewer. The production notes and the behind the scenes featurette do definitely direct the viewer towards a certain view of the film which audiences may or may not accept. Regardless of whether or not such a view is ultimately accepted, however, these extra features do definitely add to the enjoyment of the film.

Final Thoughts
This film is definitely not for everyone. It is filled with violence, real and imaginary. It does not offer the most satisfying of endings, a la Silence of the Lambs, but rather an uncertain one. The film is rather challenging and may not always seem like the movie pays off after a viewer meets the challenge. This is, however, a film that definitely can germinate and grow, and should be seen by fans of the book and fans of the many genres on which this film touches.

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