American Psycho (2000)

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Released 14-Feb-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Isolated Musical Score
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 97:55
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Mary Harron
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Christian Bale
Willem Dafoe
Jared Leto
Josh Lucas
Samantha Mathis
Matt Ross
Bill Sage
Chloe Sevigny
Cara Seymour
Justin Theroux
Guinevere Turner
Reese Witherspoon
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $36.95 Music John Cale


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Spanish
Bulgarian
Czech
Hungarian
Polish
Portuguese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"You can never go too far." – Ferris Bueller

    How to get the most out of American Psycho:

    Step 1. Read the book by Bret Easton Ellis.
    Step 2. (optional) Watch the movie on DVD.
    Step 3. Read the book again, perhaps after some time has passed.
    Step 4. Yes, read the book once more.
    Step 5. That night, if you have nothing to do, sit down and watch the DVD.
    Step 6. Go to Step 1.

    Listen, the movie is good. It's a remarkably faithful adaptation of Ellis' brilliant literary novel, which by the way happens to be my favourite book of all time. A few directors have taken a crack at the seemingly impossible task: David Cronenberg and Oliver Stone, for example. Both men are more talented and experienced than the film's eventual director and co-writer Mary Harron, whose feature film résumé up till now consists of 1996's I Shot Andy Warhol. Although Cronenberg and Stone may have created cinematic masterpieces, I suspect that they also could have warped the material to its detriment. For better or worse, history will note that Mary Harron directed American Psycho, and fairly well, too. A review of the movie written by Bret Easton Ellis appears on the official movie website. He is generally appreciative of how the themes and tone of the novel were communicated to film. Ellis writes: "Like the novel, the movie is essentially plotless, a horror-comedy with a thin narrative built up of satirical riffs about greed, status and the business values of the 1980s culture."

    Patrick Bateman, 27, good-looking and rich, holds down a job on Wall Street as an executive at Pierce and Pierce (cute), a firm his father owns. Patrick Bateman is also a psychopath. His diseased mentality has been growing steadily like a tumour, fed by the bland, superficial accoutrements of life as a New York yuppie. It seems that the more stylish the business card, the more pompous the girlfriend, or the more expensive the meal ("speaking of reasonable...only $570"), the bigger Patrick's rage becomes. He is like an embodiment of Munch's painting The Scream, or a ticking bomb that resets itself with a shorter fuse after each explosion. To charge his numbed synapses, Patrick resorts to doing hard drugs, watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Inside Lydia's Ass, listening to vacuous artists like Phil Collins and Huey Lewis And The News, engaging in group sex, dining on expensive boutique cuisine, dropping serial killer trivia into everyday conversation, collecting power tools, pandering to his narcissism, and indulging his sexual sadism. Trouble is that his latent psychopathic urges gradually pull back the curtain of his sanity, revealing a monstrous metaphor that no one recognises...perhaps because Patrick is so insane that his incredible acts of violence are exactly that: not credible, at least to the world outside his skull.

    Welshman Christian Bale (Empire of the Sun) was a good choice for Patrick Bateman. His American accent rang true, although I suspect the dialogue coaching added the same note of oddness that Gwyneth Paltrow had in Sliding Doors. When discussing the daunting task of getting into shape for American Psycho, Bale quipped, "In Britain we don't go to the gym, we go to the pub." Bale's finest moment is the frenzied phone call he makes to his lawyer toward the end of the film. You can't help laughing at Patrick's emotional anguish in this scene. Something else to consider: Bates, Bateman, Bale. Hmmm.

    The production design by Gideon Ponte creates a bourgeois 1980s backdrop for Patrick and his friends to inhabit. The images in my head of the various clubs and restaurants were more elegant and glossy than those shown in the film, but of course I've never been to New York. Patrick's minimalist apartment, with its classic designer furniture (Mies van der Rohr, Mackintosh), luminous white surfaces, and stainless steel kitchen has all the warmth and charm of an operating theatre. I love it.

    Since this is a first-person narrative, the supporting characters are relegated to the background. Jared Leto (Fight Club, Urban Legend) as Paul Allen and Justin Theroux as Timothy Bryce are both excellent, as is Chloë Sevigny playing Patrick's delicate, love-lorn secretary Jean. Her scene with Patrick in his apartment is quite fabulous, one of the best in the film. The pouting, yuppie "hardbody" girlfriends are played by the decidedly unattractive Reese Witherspoon and Samantha Mathis, who fail to pull off the sex kitten/bimbo demeanour that is integral to the book. Mathis in particular looks like she's been up all night tending to a sick goldfish. They may be good actors, but their short screen time didn't justify being cast, although in all fairness, none of the actors are given much of a chance to develop their characters. Co-writer Guinevere Turner is terrific as Patrick's acquaintance Elizabeth; she had more spunk than any of the other women. Willem Dafoe as inspector Donald Kimball was effective and Matt Ross as Luis Carruthers is picture perfect.

    The novel contains some of the most horrific gore set pieces I have ever read. Harron's movie alludes to the bloodshed and sadism that Patrick unleashes upon his victims, which is toned down here for mainstream consumption. Thematically, I think Bret Easton Ellis made the violence that offensive to imprint his satirical ideas with a high degree of disgust, so that readers could not recall what is otherwise a light, if droll, comedy about the 1980s without feeling nauseous. I would have preferred more overt torture, killings, and cannibalism in the movie, but the result is precisely as expected in today's censorship climate. Australia has received the uncut edition, rated R 18+ theatrically and on this DVD. State-side cinema prints had slightly less bedroom gymnastics.

    Think of American Psycho as a condensed version of the book, which (like most novels) has too many scenes to film, anyway. The vibe is the same, the author's literary aspirations and subtexts are there, the performances are competent overall, and the black comedy works wonderfully. While it could have been longer, sleazier, and nastier, the movie still represents the best attempt of all those involved at translating difficult material with a smallish $8 million budget onto the screen. And it survives repeated viewings, unlike some of its characters...heh heh!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Framed at 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced, the picture quality on this DVD is generally outstanding. The only let down is a less than pristine source print. American Psycho was lensed by Andrzej Sekula, who also shot Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Hackers.

    Sharpness and detail is decent throughout. Foreground and background elements are rendered keenly, although not as refined as in high profile titles. Thankfully there is no sign of the mild edge enhancement reported on the Region 1 DVD. Shadow detail is wanting at times, for example in the restaurant scene with Kimball and Bateman (the dark suits are virtually silhouettes) and when Bateman patrols the dingy wharf district looking for prostitutes. As a result, blacks can look soupy, but these instances are rare because most of the film is brightly lit.

   Colours look natural and properly saturated. Skin tones were good, there was no colour bleed, and colour consistency was fine. The blood on Patrick's face in one scene looked rather false; who knows whether this was intentional or not. The print I saw at Village / Crown Casino was duller and more washed out than this transfer.

    Blemishes appeared in the form of black and white specks, and film grain was rife during the all-white opening credit sequence, which I also noticed at the theatrical screening. The grain disappears pretty fast, at any rate. Venetian blinds cause shimmer chaos with every scene they show up in – Patrick's office windows just happen to be covered with them. Apart from these film artefacts, there were no other film or compression problems. Columbia Tristar have delivered another classy transfer, this time with imperfect materials and in a single layer. Thankfully the recurring transfer nightmare that has plagued Sekula's best known film Pulp Fiction has not infected American Psycho.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Compressed to the higher 448 kb/s rate are two Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks (English and Spanish) and another 5.1 track holding the isolated music score.

    Dialogue was clear and centred most of the time. A couple of scenes featured fast talking exchanges between Bateman's friends; some of the words can only be picked up on the subtitles. There were no distortion or synchronization glitches.

    John Cale has composed the original music for a number of films, including Mary Harron's I Shot Andy Warhol, Jonathan Demme's Something Weird and Caged Heat, not to mention Andy Warhol's Heat way back in the early 1970s. For American Psycho he has arranged a mixture of sunny, frivolous tunes that sound like they are played by a string quartet, together with pieces that underscore Patrick Bateman's escalating hysteria. The music itself sounded full and rich in this mix, with good separation and imaging across the front sound stage. Listen to the isolated track if you want to analyse the cues in depth. The rock songs by Huey Lewis And The News, Robert Palmer, David Bowie, Chris de Burgh, Katrina and the Waves, The Cure, Phil Collins, and many others all deliver a punch when given a generous volume boost.

    The surrounds were engaged often to generate an enveloping sound stage, with ambient city sounds emanating from all sides of the room, and split surround effects doing a good job of making us believe that a helicopter is buzzing Bateman around town. In fact, we never actually see the helicopter. Evidence of dynamic range was demonstrated when Patrick pulls out his chainsaw. This sequence was so startling that I fingered the volume down automatically, thinking the neighbours would be busting through my door at any minute. Subwoofer assistance was called upon several times, though mainly during the rock numbers for the bass kicks.

    Overall this is an entertaining sound track. It's not the best I've heard, but it's a long way from being the worst.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menus

    Full frame, not 16x9 enhanced. No animation or music. The navigation cursor is a drop of blood and knives are used as pointers...heh heh heh. I like those ghoulish touches.

Featurette (5:08)

    More like a featurette-ette, this five minute collection of candid remarks about the film by the actors and director hint at what a full length documentary would deliver. The thoughtful remarks are made by Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Mary Harron, and Chloë Sevigny. Unfortunately Bret Easton Ellis does not make an appearance. The rough video imagery is shown full frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Theatrical Trailer (2.00)

    Framed at roughly 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced with good Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, the trailer predictably emphasizes the black humour angle. A good, snappy trailer.

Talent Bios (8 pages)

    Brief bullet-point bios are given for Christian Bale, Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis, Willem Dafoe, and Mary Harron.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The specs appear to be identical, so choose the Region 4 DVD for the convenience and resolution. But having said that, I suspect that the dialogue will be a shade more discernible at the slower NTSC running time. Just guessing... The UK DVD has some amusing deleted scenes.

Summary

    Perversely released on Valentine's Day by Columbia Tristar, American Psycho on DVD would make a fantastic gift for your loved one. It's a dark, cautionary tale about the evils of superficiality and the dehumanizing effects of using too much moisturizer. The movie itself is well-crafted, given that you ignore the fake looking axe, Christian Bale's fake looking front teeth, and ugly bimbos. What counts is the black humour and the notion that "we all go a little mad sometimes", to quote Norman Bates, the original American Psycho.

    Luckily Columbia Tristar's DVD looks better than the cinema print I saw. The video quality is sound and the audio package transports you squarely between the ears of a psychopath. A bigger windfall at the box office may have guaranteed more extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rod Williams (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Friday, February 16, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Ergo (81cm). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder.
AmplificationArcam AV50 5 x 50W amplifier
SpeakersFront: ALR/Jordan Entry 5M, Centre: ALR/Jordan 4M, Rear: ALR/Jordan Entry 2M, Subwoofer: B&W ASW-1000 (active)

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Comments (Add)
Did he do it? - Alex H (My biography...in 500 words or less!)
Yes he did it all....in his own mind - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Most UNDERRATED movie of all time - Michael H (wish my bio were here) REPLY POSTED
is this the US Uncut Version? - REPLY POSTED