In this new series of articles, our writers are watching classic films for the first time. We begin with Carmen catching up on Mary Harron’s American Psycho.

Mary Harron’s brutal satire of corporate America – and the (often white, often wealthy) men at its top – alternates laugh-out-loud moments with lurid sadism to create an explosive, cutting picture of one man’s amorality. American Psycho makes its aim clear from the beginning; Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) voices over his meticulous morning routine and high-flying investment banker lifestyle with precision but apathy. With perfect physical and financial balance achieved but no purpose in life, he dives into a hedonistic bloodlust in search of the ultimate high.

Bale makes Bateman a live wire, talking in almost scholarly detail about his skincare regime and record collection before chopping people with axes and chainsaws. His physical and vocal precision thoroughly convinces as a man with no discernible moral compass, mastering every voice and gesture until an irrepressible urge – for murder, sex, or New York’s most elite dinner – takes over. One striking detail sees Bateman derive more pleasure from the perfect business card than the exploitation and pornography films he plays as he goes through files and calls his mistress – a damning portrait of dehumanising bravado and one-upmanship of the pre-recession financial world.

Harron astutely judges perspectives through the narrative, centralising Bateman’s twisted logic while occasionally breaking into that of a side character to throw this off-kilter world into a new light: the effect swings between mocking and deeply unsettling. Unfortunately, American Psycho’s ending is its weakest point; while driving home established themes, it deflates the established momentum by underplaying the reckoning that almost happens. In a film this bombastic, the tonal shift feels like a wasted opportunity.

While American Psycho does not stick a landing worthy of the frenetic energy and razor-sharp commentary that preceded it, the film remains sharp and resonant in its portrayal of entitlement, excess, and the American dream’s darkest heart.


Available to watch on: Netflix


CAST: Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jaret Leto, Josh Lucas, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon

DIRECTOR: Mary Harron

WRITERS: Mary Harron, Guinevere Turner

SYNOPSIS: An up and coming New York investment banker goes on a hedonistic, murderous rampage in this cutting satire.