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This movie probably has one of the least-developed plots I have ever seen*. However, it more than makes up for this deficiency in terms of character development.
In fact, the entire film revolves around the characterization of the title character, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale). It's a character study, plain and simple.
From the very beginning Bateman is narrating, and the audience gets a solid insight on the way this handsome, young, rich, successful corporate executive views himself, his friends, and the world around him. And there's little mistake that he is indeed insane.
The fact that Bateman is a handsome, young, rich, successful corporate executive, however, has stirred up some controversy over the film, making it the second time distributor Lions Gate Films has found itself on the firing line (they were first slammed for the release of Kevin Smith's DOGMA, which was viewed as offensive to Christianity). Apparently, the public^ doesn't agree with the idea that a character like Bateman can be a serial killer. Seems, the average Joe thinks a serial killer has to come from the gutter: a hopeless sociopath living off the dregs of society. Never mind that most serial killers have been shown to be highly intelligent, despite their various mental imbalances . . .
But I digress.
As expected from a young executive, Bateman is surrounded by similarly successful corporate VP's. They all work for the same company, and it's great listening to Bateman's narrative give razor-sharp commentary on each of them, while on-screen they're comparing who's got the most expensive suits, best apartments, and even the best-looking business cards, and all the while Bateman is obsessing over every one while slipping deeper into his insanity.
The action of the film kicks off once Bateman, in his jealousy, brings coworker Paul Owen (Jared Leto: URBAN LEGEND) home and summarily executes him. Enter Detective Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe: eXistenZ, SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, SPIDER-MAN), who is hired by Allen's family to find him. Bateman then finds himself with the simultaneous task of throwing Kimball off track while sating his ever-increasing homicidal urges. The end leaves the audience with a few questions, but it's a good twist and, in my opinion, fitting and satisfying.
The original novel, written by Bret Easton Ellis, was set in the 80's, and Director Mary Harron stays true to that timeframe in her version of the script. In fact, the producers went out of their way to capture the 80's feel by having fashion designers set up the complete suit wardrobe modeled after 80's styles.
Even better, Harron captured the yuppie attitude of the various characters. They're arrogant and stuck up, wearing blinders to everything except what affects their money and their jobs. Even Bateman's fiancee, Evelyn Williams (Reese Witherspoon: FEAR, FREEWAY), is so caught up with herself that she is completely out of touch with reality and even her relationship with Bateman.
Harron does not get caught up in the blood and gore, and in fact there's about as much gore as a typical X-Files episode. She concentrates instead on the actions themselves. There are some more intense sexual scenes, however, and I feel I should note that the American release has been censored. There is a menage-a-trois scene that had to be severely edited for the film to avoid an NC-17 rating.
I had a great time watching Bateman do his thing, and in fact I actually laughed during several scenes (I was the only one in the theater laughing). It's not necessarily the brutality of his acts that gave me the giggles (though I did enjoy watching some rich folks meet a messy end), but the delivery of said actions. Again, I hate to give anything away, but Bale does an outstanding job in the role. From the deadpan to the panicked, he delivers with a verve that is damn near scary.
This film is a real treat for those of us that enjoy a liberal dose of darkness with their humor and vice versa. Sit back and watch Bateman in action, and let the plot take its own course. Despite leaving some loose ends at the climax, I give this one five shriek girls.
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