Picture the scene.

It is Friday, April 21, 2000 and here I am at the Showcase Cinema in Bristol.

It is shortly before midday as I approach the deserted ticket counter.

“Can I have one ticket please for American Psycho at 12pm, 3pm and 7pm,” say I.

“I’m sorry?” replies the attendant.

“One ticket please for the 12pm, 3pm, and 7pm screenings of American Psycho ,” I repeat.

“You want three tickets for the same film?” inquires the attendant.

“Yep,” I reply, before getting my tickets and wandering off to the auditorium, leaving the attendant shaking his head in bemusement behind me.

Now I’ve been well known over the years for seeing films a stupid number of times at the cinema (I think I saw Desperado every night for a week when that was released) but three times in one day? That is excessive – even by my standards.

What I’m hoping this little tale highlights is just how much I was looking forward to the release of some Patrick Bateman mayhem back in the day – and I mean REALLY looking forward to it.

You see, Bret Easton Ellis’ novel is the only piece of fiction that I have bothered to read twice (yes, I know that makes me sound a bit thick, but there are simply too many films to watch).

So when news of a film treatment came along I was on tenterhooks, even when it went through the Mary Harron/Christian Bale to Oliver Stone/Leonardo Di Caprio back to Harron and Bale pre-production dance.

I’ll make no bones about it, the simple reason I love American Psycho is the character of Patrick Bateman – while nailgunning prostitutes to crucifixes may be going a bit far, the whole ‘mask of sanity’ or ‘wanting to fit in’ character traits really struck a chord with me, and still do to this day as a matter of fact.AMERICAN-PSYCHO_610

Plus, anyone that knows me knows that a touch of the dark side is right up my alley, so I was happy to trawl through the dark recesses of Bateman’s mind, even though I fully understand many recoiling at the thought.

So, back to the film and I have no problem admitting I was fully expecting to be disappointed (and annoyed that I had forked out for three screenings of a film I never intended to watch more than once).

But the simple fact that, nearly 13 years later, I am writing a piece about why I ‘love’ American Psycho should tell you that I thought the film was absolutely spot-on.

In fact, I would say the film went beyond what I expected it to be on the success scale.

The reason for that? Well, there are a quite a few.

Firstly, Bale as Bateman.

It seems absurd now with the benefit of hindsight to look back to 2000 and consider Bale a ‘risk’ in a lead role of this nature, but that was how things panned out.

In fact, the Welsh actor was only granted the role on the proviso that he was surrounded by a couple of ‘names’ – hence we get the likes of Reece Witherspoon and Willem Defoe in supporting roles.

As a calling card, Bale is sensational as Bateman – a glossy, vacuous, vicious, sharp-suited ego-maniac that totally nails the literary creation (if you excuse the pun).

Whether it is sweating over a colleague’s new business card, attempting to feed a cat to an ATM or working out at home (with Texas Chainsaw Massacre playing in the background no less), Bale absolutely owns Patrick – in both looks and deeds.

The best compliment I can pay to him is that, after this performance, it is almost impossible considering anyone else taking on the role – with this much success anyway.

Added to Bale is a quality supporting troupe that includes the likes of Witherspoon and Defoe, as well as Jared Leto, Chloe Sevigny, Samantha Mathis and many more.

There isn’t a dud display in the bunch and the movie is a whole lot better for it.christian-bale-american-psycho-photos-10222009-12

Credit also must go to Harron, both for the solid direction and the tone the film is pitched at.

Yes, there are scenes of horror and over-the-top excess, but this is also tempered with a streak of jet-black comedy throughout.

In fact, the whole thing could be considered a comedy (or certainly a satire), even if it is of the jettest black variety imaginable.

While I love the book and its oh-so grim overtones, putting that up on screen could have made the whole thing very difficult to watch (or certainly enjoy).

But scenes such as the business card face-off, or Bateman’s crazed call to his lawyer confessing to a host of murders, are genuinely funny, and complement the darker episodes of the story to perfection.

For many people, the real sticking point of the original novel was the level, and graphic depiction, of violence.

In fact, I can remember the cover of Total Film magazine back in the day, ahead of release, which had a cover story focusing on the production and movie violence.

But what Harmon does spectacularly well is make you think you have actually seen a lot more than you really have.

Do we see a naked, blood-smeared Batemen wielding a chainsaw? Yes we do.

Do we see him actually slice into anyone with said chainsaw? No we don’t.

Do we see Bateman diasappear below bedsheets, going down on one of his lady guests, only to emerge from bloodsoaked sheets with blood oozing from his teeth? Yes we do.

Do we actually see him do anything though? No we don’t.ap09_1200x795

Do we see Bateman don a waterproof mac before attacking Paul Allen (Leto) with an axe? Yes we do.

Do we see Allen struck by the axe? No we don’t.

And so on, and by now you have got the picture.

So much of what Harron does is suggestion, tricking the viewer into thinking they are seeing things they haven’t.

That is not for one moment to suggest that there is not an undercurrent of violence simmering at the surface, as there is, but showing Bale twisting a coathanger into a potential weapon while snarling ‘We’re not done yet’, is far more effective than washing the screen with gore – and this comes from someone reared on the excesses of early 80s splatter cinema.

There were issues I had with the film when it came out – the main one being the ‘did he or didn’t he actually do this’ approach taken at the film’s closure.

Although that jarred with me somewhat, it did seem a logical step to take, as did the abrupt conclusion (which mirrored the book).

But these were very minor quibbles for a film that since its release has seen me buy the UK DVD, the US DVD, various teaser and cinema release posters as well as my favourite, my talking Patrick Bateman figurine (complete with briefcase, knife and axe).

American Psycho is a film that I could (and indeed do) watch time and time again, such is the level of quality across the board, and if anyone has given it a miss (for fear of being grossed out etc) then I implore you to check it out.

But if you will now excuse me, I have to make a reservation at Dorsia, or maybe even return some videotapes………

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.