American Psycho (film)

American Psycho (film)
American Psycho

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mary Harron
Produced by Christian Solomon
Chris Hanley
Edward R. Pressman
Screenplay by Mary Harron
Guinevere Turner
Based on American Psycho by
Bret Easton Ellis
Starring Christian Bale
Willem Dafoe
Reese Witherspoon
Chloë Sevigny
Jared Leto
Justin Theroux
Josh Lucas
Cara Seymour
Samantha Mathis
Music by John Cale
Cinematography Andrzej Sekuła
Editing by Andrew Marcus
Studio Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation
Distributed by Lions Gate Films
Release date(s) April 14, 2000 (2000-04-14)
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $7 million[1]
Box office $34,266,564[1]

American Psycho is a 2000 cult thriller film directed by Mary Harron based on Bret Easton Ellis's novel of the same name. Though predominantly a psycho thriller, the film also blends elements of horror, satire, and black comedy. It stars Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, with Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Justin Theroux, Bill Sage, Chloë Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Willem Dafoe, and Samantha Mathis. The film focuses on Wall Street yuppie Patrick Bateman (Bale), whose mental instability and blood lust lead him to serial killing. It debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on April 14, 2000.



The film opens in a restaurant with wealthy Wall Street businessmen Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), Timothy Bryce (Justin Theroux), David Van Patten (Bill Sage), and Craig McDermott (Josh Lucas). They discuss their envy for a successful associate named Paul Allen, who managed to obtain the Fischer account, before purchasing an expensive lunch. Late at night, the four go to a club, where Patrick reveals his psychopathic nature towards a female bartender (Somaya Reece), when she refuses to accept his beverage ticket, although she does not hear him.

The film cuts to Bateman's apartment, where he describes, in detail, his morning routine, which includes daily exercise, a healthy diet, and an extensive cleansing ritual. After a restaurant with Evelyn (his fiancee), Courtney, Luis Carruthers (Matt Ross), and Bryce, in which Patrick reveals he is having sex with Courtney, he murders a woman. Patrick dates Courtney at Barcadia, although he attempted to reserve a table at Dorsia. The next morning, Patrick and his associates flaunt their business cards in a display of utter vanity; although, despite Bateman's attempts, he is bested by Paul Allen's card. Following this, he murders a homeless man and his dog in an alleyway.

At a Christmas party, Patrick makes plans to have dinner with Paul Allen (Jared Leto), who mistakes Patrick for a comparable associate named Marcus. At dinner, Bateman gets Paul extremely drunk and leads him back to his apartment. While playing Huey Lewis and the News' "Hip to Be Square," Patrick ambushes Paul and murders him with an axe. In the morning, after Patrick has acquired Paul's apartment, and making others believe Allen is in London, he is met by Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe), a detective searching for the truth about the mysterious disappearance of Paul Allen (although it is unclear whether Kimball suspects Patrick or not).

Patrick then has a menage a trois with two hookers, but then tortures them afterwards. The next day, Luis Carruthers reveals his new business card, sending Bateman over the edge. Bateman tries to kill Luis in the restroom, but cannot bring himself to strangle him. Luis mistakes Patrick's attempted murder as a sexual advance. Since Luis is a closeted homosexual, he urges Patrick to call him, but his attempts to further their relationship fail.

After murdering a blonde model, Patrick invites Jean (Chloë Sevigny) to dinner at Dorsia after pretending to reserve a table. When Jean arrives at the apartment for drinks, Patrick, unbeknownst to Jean, holds a nail gun to the back of her head. However, he decides not to hurt her and asks her to leave before she gets injured. Following another luncheon with Kimball, Patrick has a menage a trois with his good friend Bethany and "Christie" (Cara Seymour), the hooker from before. In the middle of having sex, Christie realizes that Patrick has killed Bethany and tries to flee the apartment. In the process of her departure, she discovers a multitude of female corpses and "Die Yuppie Scum" scrawled on the wall in blood. Bateman then murders her with a chain saw.

After this, Patrick severs his relationship with his fiancée Evelyn Williams (Reese Witherspoon). Following this, Bateman is cashing his credit card at an ATM, when he imagines that it demands the life of a stray cat. Bateman is stopped from killing the cat by a woman, whom he murders. A police chase ensues, but Bateman destroys the cars by shooting their gas tanks. He then flees to his office, where he murders the receptionist and janitor, and calls his lawyer, Howard. Bateman leaves a lengthy voicemail, confessing, in detail, most of his murders. He then ends with, "I guess I'm a pretty sick guy."

The next day, Patrick visits Paul Allen's apartment. Expecting to see a collection of corpses, he is surprised when he finds that the apartment is completely vacant and being offered for sale by a realtor. She views him as an intruder and tells him to leave immediately, not to cause trouble, and to never return. Bateman complies, stating he has no plans to. As Patrick goes to meet with his colleagues and lawyer, Jean finds detailed drawings of murders and rapes done by Patrick Bateman, insinuating that he either is imagining false crimes or he is reflecting upon crimes that he actually committed.

The next day, Bateman sees his lawyer, while attending a restaurant with his friends, and tries to convince the lawyer that he is Patrick Bateman and a serial killer. However, despite his pleas, the lawyer sees his confession as a sick joke and denies the concept that Paul Allen was murdered, since he lunched with him in London only 10 days before. Bateman realizes that the punishment he deserves will continue to escape him. He laments that there has been no catharsis and that he still remains a mystery to himself. Although he regrets that nothing has been gained, he still wants his pain to be inflicted on others, insinuating his psychopathic nature still remains. The film ends with him finishing his inner monologue by stating, "This confession has meant nothing."



Mary Harron, who had previously directed I Shot Andy Warhol (based on the story of Valerie Solanas), directed the film and co-wrote its screenplay with Guinevere Turner. This screenplay was selected over three others, including one by Ellis himself. Turner claims Ellis' only complaint with the film was Bateman's moonwalk before killing Paul Allen. In the novel, Patrick Bateman's favorite artists are Genesis, Huey Lewis and the News and Whitney Houston. An entire chapter is devoted to each. Virtually every line in the film, including voice-overs, are taken nearly verbatim from Ellis' novel. One of the few discrepancies is that several names from the book were changed for the film; for instance Paul Owen became Paul Allen and Tim Price became Tim Bryce. In an interview, Harron claimed to be distressed upon discovering that Paul Allen was a high-powered figure in business and technology and that she meant nothing by the use of his name.[2]

American Psycho, as other works by Ellis, has connecting characters from his other books which subsequently do not appear at all in the film version. The exception is the character of Vanden (whom Evelyn introduces as her cousin at Espace), who is also from Rules of Attraction. Patrick's brother Sean from The Rules of Attraction is in the chapter entitled "Birthday/Brother", but is mentioned nowhere in the film; However, Patrick is mentioned by Sean in both the book and the film version of The Rules of Attraction.

Johnny Depp was informally attached to the project, first with Stuart Gordon in talks and then with David Cronenberg attached. Brad Pitt was once attached to star, with David Cronenberg directing and Ellis himself writing the script. Edward Norton was offered the part of Bateman but turned it down. Harron was set to direct, and offered the role of Bateman to Christian Bale, when production company Lions Gate Entertainment issued a press release that Leonardo DiCaprio would star. Oliver Stone subsequently expressed interest in directing the film which would see DiCaprio as Patrick Bateman, James Woods as Donald Kimball and Cameron Diaz as Evelyn Williams with a script written by Matthew Markwalder. Harron resigned in protest because of Stone's and DiCaprio's desire to make Bateman more humane and less of a cold-blooded killer. DiCaprio was going to be paid $20 million for the film. When Gloria Steinem lobbied DiCaprio not to make the film, on the grounds that his fan base consisted mostly of young teenage girls following his Titanic success, he dropped out, as did Stone. Ewan McGregor was subsequently offered the part, but declined after Christian Bale personally urged him to do so.[3] Eventually Harron and Bale returned together to the project. Many people[who?] in the film industry had said that the novel was "un-filmable" because of its graphic violence and sexual content.

Bale spent several months working out by himself, and then three hours a day with a trainer during pre-production, in order to achieve the proper physique for the narcissistic Bateman. To prepare for the role, Bale spoke to Harron on the phone about "how Martian-like Patrick Bateman was, how he was looking at the world like somebody from another planet, watching what people did and trying to work out the right way to behave". During their conversations, he told her that he had seen Tom Cruise on David Letterman's talk show and Harron related that Bale was struck by the movie star's "very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes, and he was really taken with this energy."[4]


As promotion for the film, one could register to receive e-mails "from" Patrick Bateman, supposedly to his therapist.[5] The e-mails, written by a writer attached to the film and approved by the book's author Bret Easton Ellis, follow Bateman's life since the events of the film. He discusses such developments as his marriage to (and impending divorce settlement with) his former secretary, Jean, his complete adoration of his son, Patrick Jr., and his efforts to triumph over his business rivals. The e-mails also describe or mention interactions with other characters from the novel, including Timothy Price (Bryce in the film version), Evelyn Williams, Luis Carruthers, Courtney Rawlinson, David Van Patten, Detective Donald Kimball and Marcus Halberstam. However, the film's star, Christian Bale, was not happy with this kind of marketing: "My main objection is that some people think it will be me returning those e-mails. I don't like that ... I think the movie stands on its own merits and should attract an audience that can appreciate intelligent satire. It's not a slasher flick, but it's also not American Pie. The marketing should reflect that."[5]

Lions Gate spent $50,000 on an online stock-market game, Make a Killing with American Psycho, which invited players to invest in films, actors, or musicians using fake Hollywood money. This marketing ploy did little to help the film's box office but the studio's co-president Tom Ortenberg still claimed that it was a success: "The aim was to gain exposure and awareness for the picture, and we did that," he said. "Lions Gate will make a tidy profit on the picture."[6]


The soundtrack for the film was scored by John Cale, with artists such as David Bowie, The Cure, and New Order. The Huey Lewis and the News song "Hip to Be Square" appears in the film and was initially intended to be on the soundtrack album, but was removed from the album due to lack of publishing rights.[7] As a result, Koch Records were forced to recall approximately 100,000 copies of the album which were destroyed. Koch Records president Bob Frank said, "As a result of the violent nature of the film, Huey Lewis's management decided not to give the soundtrack clearance".[7] Lewis' manager Bob Brown claimed that the musician had not seen the film and that "we knew nothing about a soundtrack album. They just went ahead and put the cut on there. I think what they're trying to do is drum up publicity for themselves".[7] In addition, prior to the start of principal photography, Whitney Houston refused to allow the use of her performance of the song "The Greatest Love of All" in the film and was replaced by an easy-listening orchestrated version.[7]


American Psycho premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival where it was touted as the next Fight Club.[8] The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave the film an NC-17 rating for a scene featuring Bateman having a threesome with two prostitutes. The producers excised approximately 18 seconds of footage to obtain an R-rated version of the film.[9]


American Psycho debuted at the Sundance Film Festival where it polarized audiences and critics with some showering praise, others scorn.[10] Upon its theatrical release, however, the film received positive reviews in crucial publications, including The New York Times which called it a "mean and lean horror comedy classic".[11] Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and praised Christian Bale's performance as being "heroic in the way he allows the character to leap joyfully into despicability; there is no instinct for self-preservation here, and that is one mark of a good actor".[12] In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan wrote, "The difficult truth is that the more viewers can model themselves after protagonist Bateman, the more they can distance themselves from the human reality of the slick violence that fills the screen and take it all as some kind of a cool joke, the more they are likely to enjoy this stillborn, pointless piece of work".[13] Newsweek magazine's David Ansen wrote, "But after an hour of dissecting the '80s culture of materialism, narcissism and greed, the movie begins to repeat itself. It becomes more grisly and surreal, but not more interesting".[14] In his review for the Village Voice, J. Hoberman wrote, "If anything, Bale is too knowing. He eagerly works within the constraints of the quotation marks Harron puts around his performance".[15]

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers wrote, "whenever Harron digs beneath the glitzy surface in search of feelings that haven't been desensitized, the horrific and hilarious American Psycho can still strike a raw nerve".[16] In his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris wrote, "The best scenes in the film involve the kind of status-seeking jokes that would make a very funny short subject. But over a feature-length film, there is only so much hollowness this viewer can endure before starting to yawn and look at his watch. Curiously, the material has even lost its power to shock and outrage".[17] Entertainment Weekly gave the film an "A-" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "Yet Harron, if anything, is an even more devious provocateur than Ellis was. By treating the book as raw material for an exuberantly perverse exercise in '80s nostalgia, she recasts the go-go years as a template for the casually brainwashing-consumer/fashion/image culture that emerged from them. She has made a movie that is really a parable of today".[18] Time magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, "Harron and co-screenwriter Guinevere Turner do understand the book, and they want their film to be understood as a period comedy of manners".[19]

Bloody Disgusting ranked the film at #19 in their list of the 'Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade', with the article praising "Christian Bale’s disturbing/darkly hilarious turn as serial killer/Manhattan businessman Patrick Bateman, a role that in hindsight couldn’t have been played by any other actor... At its best, the film reflects our own narcissism, and the shallow American culture it was spawned from, with piercing effectiveness. Much of the credit for this can go to director Mary Harron, whose off-kilter tendencies are a good complement to Ellis’ unique style."[20]

Author Bret Easton Ellis said, "American Psycho was a book I didn't think needed to be turned into a movie," as "the medium of film demands answers," which would make the book "infinitely less interesting."[21]

The film currently holds an 67% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states "If it falls short of the deadly satire of Bret Easton Ellis's novel, American Psycho still finds its own blend of horror and humor, thanks in part to a fittingly creepy performance by Christian Bale."[22]

Home media

A Special Edition DVD was released in 2005. In the US, two versions of the film have been released: an R-rated and Unrated Version. For the edited version and R-rated cinematic release in the United States, the producers excised approximately 18 seconds of footage from a scene featuring Bateman having a threesome with two prostitutes. Some dialogue was also edited: Bateman orders a prostitute, Christy, to bend over so that another, Sabrina, can "see your asshole", which was edited to "see your ass". The unedited version also shows Bateman receiving oral sex from Christy. Some events that Bateman mentions in the phone message to his lawyer are events that transpired in the book, but not in the film.


Its influence can be seen in work of Kanye West's music video Love Lockdown[23] and the construct that is the main character in Showtime's Dexter.[citation needed] (In the sixth episode of the first season the title character is even revealed to use the alias of "Dr. Patrick Bateman" to buy narcotics.) It has also generated academic work that examines the film as an important social critique.[24]


A direct-to-video spin-off, All-American Girl, was released and directed by Morgan J. Freeman. This spin-off was not based on the novel or the original film, as its only connection with the original is the death of Patrick Bateman (played by Michael Kremko wearing a face mask), briefly shown in a flashback. However, the sequel continues the pattern in the first film of featuring a series of graphic deaths of colleagues and friends of the main character. The film received negative reviews and currently holds an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


  1. ^ a b "American Psycho (2000)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 18, 2009. 
  2. ^ interview
  3. ^
  4. ^ Weston, Hillary (October 19, 2009). "Christian Bale’s Inspiration for American Psycho: Tom Cruise". Black Book. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  5. ^ a b Howell, Peter (March 8, 2000). "American Psychos Web Promo Sickens Star". Toronto Star (Toronto). 
  6. ^ "Greed appeal fails to lift American Psycho". The Guardian (London). May 5, 2000. Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  7. ^ a b c d "American Psycho soundtrack in hot water". The Guardian (London). 2000-04-13. Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  8. ^ "American Psycho hits Sundance". The Guardian (London). 2000-01-26. Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  9. ^ "American Psycho cut to appease censors". The Guardian (London). 2000-02-29. Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  10. ^ Corliss, Richard (January 24, 2000). "Sundance Sorority". Time.,9171,995904,00.html. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  11. ^ Holden, Stephen (April 14, 2000). "Murderer! Fiend! Cad! (But Well-Dressed)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 14, 2000). "American Psycho". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  13. ^ Turan, Kenneth (April 14, 2000). "American Psycho". Los Angeles Times.,0,639071.story. Retrieved 2009-04-08. [dead link]
  14. ^ Ansen, David (April 17, 2000). "What A Total Psychopath". Newsweek. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  15. ^ Hoberman, J (April 11, 2000). "Atrocity Exhibitions". Village Voice. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  16. ^ Travers, Peter (December 8, 2000). "American Psycho". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  17. ^ Sarris, Andrew (April 23, 2000). "A Lost Soul Hovering Over the Card Table". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  18. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (April 14, 2000). "American Psycho". Entertainment Weekly.,,275891,00.html. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  19. ^ Corliss, Richard (April 17, 2000). "A Yuppie's Killer Instinct". Time.,9171,996639,00.html. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  20. ^ "00's Retrospect: Bloody Disgusting's Top 20 Films of the Decade...Part 4". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  21. ^ "Bret Easton Ellis talks film adaptations at SCAD". Creative Loafing. Retrieved 2010-06-19. 
  22. ^ American Psycho at Rotten Tomatoes
  23. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (October 7, 2008). "Kanye West Says 'Love Lockdown' Video Was Inspired By American Psycho". MTV. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  24. ^ Robinson, David (2006). CineAction. 

External links

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