American Psycho

American Psycho (2000)
Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Cast: Christian Bale, Jaret Leto, Willem Dafoe, Josh Lucas, Chloe Sevigny
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Deleted Scenes, Featurette

Over the past years I repeatedly heard remarks about "American Psycho" and how effective the film is. I have to admit that it didn't appeal to me when it was first released in 2000 but when now the Blu-Ray version of this film landed on my desk, I was intrigued enough to take a look. After all, it was also the movie that put actor Christian Bale on the map for many of us.

"American Psycho" tells the story of Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale). Patrick is a 27-year old Harvard graduate who works on Wall Street. He's young, handsome, rich, and very crazy. When Patrick isn't at work, he's spending time with his fiancee Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon), or his mistress Courtney (Samantha Mathis), or with his high-powered friends. But, Patrick also likes to commit murder. "American Psycho" is set in 1987, and as the film opens, we see Patrick as just another greedy yuppie. But, after we witness him performing his first killing, we definitely sense that something is wrong with Patrick.

Patrick is a sociopath (not a true psychopath, as the title would imply), in that he has no true emotions, but puts on a performance to fit the social situation in which he finds himself. Patrick is very good at impressing the ladies or making expensive deals at work, but he doesn't feel connected to other people. Patrick likes to manipulate people, but most of all he likes to inflict pain on others. Things come to a head when Patrick becomes jealous of a co-worker, Paul Allen (Jared Leto). (It's the fact that Allen has nicer business cards that sends Patrick over the edge.) Patrick plots Allen's murder and this opens the floodgates on his madness. Suddenly, Patrick can't stop killing people. Strangely, Patrick confesses his crimes to many of his colleagues, but they are too wrapped up in their own lives to put any credence to Patrick's words. Even a private detective (Willem Dafoe) has difficulty seeing past Patrick's perfect veneer to the monster that lies beneath. As the film progresses, Patrick becomes more and more out of control, as he finds himself teetering on the brink of total madness.

I found "American Psycho" an intriguing film much better than I honestly expected and the most impressive thing about was how long my wife and I talked about the film after it was over. Given its premise, set up and ending there is just so much to explore and mull over once you have seen the entire film and things begin to fall into place. I like that in movies as it gives them depth and sustenance and it definitely helped leverage "American Psycho" above the average thriller.

There was a lot of discussion in the past as to how the movie compares to the novel and as to how the novel's extreme violence is not properly relayed in the film, making Patrick appear less monstrous. I have never read the novel so I can't draw any direct parallels but I never had the feeling that graphic violence would have helped the movie at all. In fact it is what we don't see that makes Patrick appear so much more inhuman that any carnage could possibly have instilled. To me the low level of graphic violence is really the key to this film's effectiveness.

Nonetheless the movie is not without flaws. While it is nicely plotted in general the routine gets a bit tired after a while. We see Patrick at work, with his friends, then on a killing spree. Then we see Patrick at work, with his friends, then on a killing spree again, and so on. The pattern is repeated over and over again and after a while I couldn't feel a bit bored and was looking forward to the film's third act to get some sort of resolution to the horrendous actions I have witnessed.

Lionsgate presents "American Psycho" in a 1080p transfer on this Blu-Ray Disc. The transfer is generally quite good but there is some noticeably grain evident in the presentation. It is exceedingly evident in the opening credits and then diminishes somewhat but returns in countless shots. The film has a high contrast look and the sheer amounts of white in the picture at times are brutal. With a pristine transfer that would not be a problem but here we have grain visible in these areas almost constantly, making for a somewhat blemished presentation. The level of detail in the transfer ranges from marvelously rich to average. The graininess of the picture contributes to that as well at times as definition appears reduced as a result of the shimmering grain. At other times however the image wonderfully reproduces fine lines and edges and renders sharp details and textures.
Other than that the film looks nice with extremely deep blacks and extreme highlights to create the stark sterile look of Patrick's world. Colors are fine and natural-looking giving the movie all the right splotches where needed. No edge-enhancement is evident and the compression is without flaws.

The film comes with a DTS HD audio track offering a 6.1 channel mix that is natural and solid. The movie's mix itself however never really makes aggressive use of these surround channels as its sound design is more restricted and almost minimalistic at times. A Dolby Digital EX track is also included that also does a good job reproducing the movie's original sound stage.

As extras the disc dishes out five deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Mary Harron. None of them is overly exciting and it is easy to see why they have been excised form the movie itself.

The commentary tracks on the release fare much better in that respect. The first one is by director Mary Harron as she discusses many aspects of the production and the difficulties of taking the highly controversial novel to the screen. It is a solid track with a lot of information and insight.

The second track is with writer Guinevere Turner that is equally interesting and full of information. Like Harron she is pretty upfront and candid about her feelings, her motivations and her discussion of the film, the novel and the response both got.

As an additional extra there is a 30-minute featurette on the release called "The '80s: Downtown". Exploring the 80s Yuppie scene that came to rise on Wall Street. Not only did I find it interesting per se but also incredibly amusing at the idiocy of the characters involved. Being rich is one thing. Being a snob and utterly stupid is something different entirely as is eloquently put on display in this little featurette.

Overall "American Psycho" is a solid but unspectacular release from Lionsgate. It could have been more with a decent new transfer and a few more extras but as it stands, it is a powerful that deserves to be seen and this Blu-Ray version is without a doubt the way to see it for the time being.