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American Psycho. 2000. Directed by Mary Harron. Screenplay by Harron & Guinevere Turner, based on the novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis.
Starring Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Bill Sage, Chloë Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, Jared Leto, Willem Dafoe, Cara Seymour, Guinevere Turner, Stephen Bogaert, Monika Meier, & Reg E. Cathey. Am Psycho Productions/Edward R.
Pressman Film/Lions Gate Films.
Rated R. 102 minutes.
The director of I Shot Andy Warhol, as well as episodes of excellent television shows like Homicide: Life on the Street and Oz – Mary Harron – takes on Bret Easton Ellis’ most well-known and definitely most controversial novel: American Psycho. What I find interesting is that this novel has been lambasted for being too horrific, disturbing, as well as having a hot streak of misogyny running through it. And yet here is a proud woman director, who before and after did very female-centric projects, taking upon herself the heavy duty of giving Ellis a big screen adaptation. And it’s because so many seem to misunderstand the original novel, Ellis’ own intentions. While it definitely serves up a nice heap of horror, American Psycho is mainly an allegory about the murderous rampage of empty-headed capitalism and those it sweeps up in its hideous wave of destruction.
The main character Patrick Bateman is an enigma. At the same time he is beyond predictable. He is a man who wants to be better than everyone else while simultaneously hoping to be just like everyone else. Thus the reasoning for such a title, nationalizing the phenomenon of psychosis here, as Bateman represents the perfect microcosm of psychosis involved in the American Dream. While the movie alludes further than the novel to what Bateman experiences as possibly all part of his own delusions, there is still a ton of visceral horror here with all that psychological madness. In a place where the hallucinatory and the corporeal meet lies American Psycho, ready to confuse, terrify, and pull out a few dark chuckles here or there.
People are more concerned with appearance than anything concrete everywhere you turn in this film. When Bateman supposedly drags a corpse out to a taxi, an acquaintance sees him, but pays no mind to what might be in the bag Patrick is dragging – he only wants to know where he got the fabulous overnight bag. Hilariously, Patrick replies “Jean Paul Gaultier” before heading off. Frequently new business cards destroy the souls of those with their same old cards still kicking around from last printing; this is perhaps the epitome of consumerism evident throughout the film. Another funny moment is when Patrick and Evelyn (Witherspoon) are at a restaurant together later – he’s breaking things off with her, actually admitting to mass murder, and she is too busy checking out a friend’s watch across the room admiring its quality. The screenplay is peppered with these bits everywhere along the way, making not only Patrick a victim of 1980s Wall Street consumer culture, but also everyone in his world, as well.
But above all else there are many little clues and hints along the way that the events of American Psycho – the serial killings – are all a product of the protagonist(/antagonist?)’s rotten mind. He becomes an unreliable narrator to the entire experience. For instance, as Patrick drags his supposed overnight bag out through the apartment building a streak of blood follows behind, staining the floor everywhere – yet the doorman only shakes his head, and a shot from outside of Patrick leaving the building shows there’s no blood anywhere to be found. Of course, as the film wears on these instances are more frequent and also much more noticeable. It’s very likely Patrick is dreaming up/fantasizing about these murders especially once we see him running naked, covered in blood, brandishing a running chainsaw through the halls of his apartment complex. Nobody heard any of that? Not likely. Because as opposed to Leatherface, of whom Patrick is a fan (he works out while watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), Patrick does his hunting not on the backwoods rural roads of small town U.S.A, but rather in the heart of the urban jungle that is Manhattan. So he doesn’t have a lot of privacy, certainly not to do these types of things. That’s a large reason of why the novel and the film are both excellent in their own rights, the lines between reality and hallucination, fantasy and the truth, are blurred to the point of black and white distinctions no longer being even remotely possible. Bateman and these Wall Street types life in the grey zone anyways, so it’s no surprise Patrick heading off the deep end puts him in another morally grey zone to boot.
It’s many of the little things which make Patrick an unsettling man. The intersection of horror and sex in his life is more than disturbing. Essentially, aside from the thrill of making money – which then is even further down the ladder than appearing powerful/wealthy – a man such as Bateman is left with only the thrill of sex and murder to satisfy his deepest urges. Then there’s the fact just about the only thing Patrick can discuss at any length is either music or anything else pop culture related. He’s so unoriginal and devoid of any personality or true wit that his only go-to excuse for people is “I have to return some videotapes.” Moreover, he only relates to any real, true emotion through music, whether it’s Whitney Houston or Huey Lewis. Everything he is comes through a construct: music, his apartment, his clothes, his business card and suit and tie. Further than that, Patrick’s identity almost becomes this fluid state simply because he is often mistaken for somebody else. A man at a building’s reception desk calls him Mr. Smith. He’s mistaken for Paul Allen, too. Later on he gets mistaken for someone named Davis. In this light, you can see his ‘killing’ of Paul Allen as a way for him to kill off that identity in order to make room for his own; a plea, a cry for recognition.
Of most importance is Patrick’s narcissism. We see the narcissistic ideals of these Wall Street guys, fawning over business cards, ties, dinner reservations, so on. They’re all about status. It’s all about being the center of attention, and in turn the center of that economic stratosphere in a hierarchy of financial crooks. So what better way to gain attention and be the center of a circus than to go on a serial killing rampage? Even better if it’s all in his head.
Christian Bale breaks through the often sickening (though awesomely intriguing) subject matter to make Patrick Bateman into a complex serial killer; one that Bret Easton Ellis created then Mary Harron and writing partner Guinevere Turner expanded upon in this masterpiece of an adaptation. It isn’t for everybody. Then again, the novel wasn’t either. And maybe I’m biased, because as much as I find Ellis slightly obnoxious as a personality, his writing is often emotionally shattering and downright remarkable. Love the novel, love the film. Harron does a nice job with directing, making the Ellis novel somehow palatable and at the same time horrific as you’d imagine. It took forever to get this to the screen after a ton of pre-production nightmares, so obviously Harron was the one able to get things in the proper place as director. Using Bale’s charismatic and terrifying performance Harron crafts this Ellis adaptation into 102 minutes of pure madness, ending on an ambiguous, unsettling note.
Because whether Patrick killed those people is ultimately futile – we have no idea where he’ll go, what he’ll do after these final moments. Will he take what he’s learned from hallucinating those murders, if that’s the case, and get better at being a serial killer? Has this basically been the pregame warm-up to his big spectacle? We don’t know. And not knowing is the scariest part.
SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 5: “War”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Teleplay by Nick Damici
* For a review of the previous episode, “Trudy” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Eskimos” – click here
The penultimate Season 1 episode of SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard starts out after the betrayal in the previous chapter, on the part of Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Soldier (Jimmi Simpson) with the greasy Paco (Neil Sandilands).
But we step back in time, to when Hap Collins (James Purefoy) was a little boy, and the racism in Marvel Creek is alive and thriving. A minstrel show is put off, as people crack up laughing and enjoy it, far too much. We see little Hap and his father driving, when they notice a black man on the road with car troubles. Then the worst looks like it’s about to happen.
Cut back to the 1980s again. Angel and Soldier, with Paco alongside, have Hap, Leonard (Michael K. Williams), Trudy (Christina Hendricks) in tow. So what kind of madness will we see this time around? Surely Hap and Leonard aren’t going down without a fight.
Naturally, Trudy is disgusted by Paco, having been an intricate part of their team before. He’s a man of his own, though. Meanwhile, Leonard tells Hap: “If you see a chance, don‘t you hesitate.” For the time being, they go along to get along. They start digging up the money from their little treasure hunt. And poor Leonard’s the one designated to do the shoveling. Typical.
Except, down in the dirt there’s no money. Just an empty box. Turns out Trudy moved the cash somewhere else. Soldier takes her aside for a little heart to heart, though, she’s one tough cookie.
Love the dialogue. Not only does it keep in the spirit of Joe Lansdale, it’s just solid television writing, and keeps the scenes moving along at a nice, spirited pace. There’s wit, there’s profundity at times, others it can even be silly as hell. Dig it all around.
Soldier: “The biggest balls in this room are swingin‘ from a cooch, I gotta love that.”
With only Trudy holding the whereabouts, things might get to looking ugly. Well, not until Soldier’s had himself a nice meal of french toast a la Angel. A set of handcuffs Leonard uses in bed end up chaining him and Hap down; nice little touch there, especially his mouthy response to Paco.
But the situation is starting to get scary. Soldier is a psychotic, as is his partner/lover in crime. The headstrong Trudy will not reveal where the money’s hidden, despite Hap trying to convince her otherwise. “Who are you, Joan of Arc?” sighs Soldier. This may lead her somewhere dark and disturbing. My favourite scene so far comes when Soldier throws on some VCMG, “Spock” to be exact, and starts dancing. Right before Angel reappears with a toolbox. Lots of interesting things to use. Nothing really works on Trudy, though. Even a semi-crucifixion. Until Howard suggests they put some pain on Hap, that’ll get her mouth jawing.
Soldier: “I figured you more of a Soul Man”
Leonard: “Country got soul”
Finally, Hap reveals he’s pretty sure where Trudy put the cash – he’d seen something on her shoes which gave her away. What’s most interesting in this scene is the bond, again, between Hap and Leonard. It’s stronger than the one between Hap and Trudy, even as lovers. Because Leonard stopped Howard from bashing Hap’s face in. Then when Leonard faced a bullet, Hap stopped it all. He could’ve really stopped things when Trudy got that nail in the hand. Yet he didn’t. He saved that card for Leonard.
Ole Howard bites the dust. I knew somebody had to. But the chaos goes on. Hap’s busy leading Soldier to the right spot. Can they slip themselves out of this mess?
At the dog pens, Hap goes in to try digging out the money. Then they throw a plan into action, as does Trudy, stabbing Paco through the eye after hauling her hand off the table and using the nail in self-defense. Everything goes wild. Hap and Leonard run off, though, the latter takes a bullet. Trudy manages to do Paco in. But Angel and Soldier are still lurking about, just as ready as ever to do more damage.
Hap and Leonard go back for Trudy, holing up in the house. Outside, Soldier removes an arrow from Angel’s neck, one Hap gave her. And so Soldier watches as she fades away, whispering sweet nothings to her; a tender relationship for two maniacs, all the same. Will this only serve to make Soldier more crazy?
Right now, Leonard’s bleeding out quick, and Hap decides running is their best option. Well, Hap plans on carrying Leonard, but still – high tailing it is their only shot.
The plan gets interrupted by Soldier. And then Trudy leaves, fast as she can. Alone. Another double cross in the books for this Southern femme fatale. How are Hap and Leonard about to squeeze out of this one?
The final Season 1 episode, “Eskimos”, comes out next week. Stay with me, folks. Loving this Lansdale adaptation to the fullest!
SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 4: “Trudy”
Directed by Nick Gomez
Teleplay by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Dive” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “War” – click here
After the end of last episode, Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams) find themselves taken hostage by Howard (Bill Sage) and his gang. Of course, Trudy Fawst (Christina Hendricks) and lets it all happen.
We watch Trudy take it all in. Heavy. She thinks about years ago, life before. The bird in a cage comes from Trudy here, as she tries to let one out into the wild: “It‘s time to be a bird.” Instead this turns into us seeing a bit of a sadistic side to her come out. When the bird won’t fly away, Trudy opts to drown it instead. Yikes. The look in her eyes says so much.
Out in the living room, Hap and Leonard on their knees get an explanation about Howard needing to “appropriate” their share of the money because there wasn’t enough left after the moldy portion. A potent word from Trudy – “sacrifice” – referring to Leonard and Hap giving up their share for Howard, Trudy and the crew. When Hap knows all about sacrifice.
The greasy crew, including Chub (Jeff Pope) and Paco (Neil Sandilands), hold Hap and Leonard at gunpoint. Hap digs a hole for them to bury the money, considering the police presence nearby. Best is when Leonard stands tall against the barrage of weaponry pointed towards him, and refuses to fill the hole in with the money; shows how he does not let anyone walk over him.
Later, Hap and Leonard end up getting Chub to talk. He gives up the plan for them to buy cocaine. That’s their plan for “sustainable income” in order to do a “Robin Hood” scheme; “to beat the system,” preaches Howard. Lots of great dialogue here in this sequence, as Hap and Leonard both give the gang a talking to, as well as take the piss at the same time. They up duct taped on the porch, bitching at each other in their unique way. Again, as I’ve said plenty already, Purefoy and Williams do such a perfect job with the characters, they really give Joe R. Lansdale’s writing justice in the sense that they make these two friends seem so believable, so natural together. You wouldn’t know but they’d actually been friends for most of their lives. Further gives authenticity to the writing, as their relationship makes everything else flow so organically.
Leonard: “Nice girlfriend you got there. Got more faces than a diamond.”
We get a deep look in Trudy during this episode; as if you didn’t know already with the title. But there are a frequent glimpses behind the mask, both frightening and also human. In the series’ current timeline, Trudy wrestles with her actions, and flashes back to the last time she really worked Hap over. I mean, she isn’t a monster. She’s a human, she is a lover. But there’s a certain amount of con artist in her, too. And ruthlessness. Yet she does question Howard: “Is this who we are?”
Chub also reveals his softer nature. While Paco’s a stone cold bad ass, Chub regrets how things went down. Further fueling the fire, Leonard tells him they don’t respect him, and says he’s just a “walking talking porkchop” in their eyes, which makes me laugh but makes me pity Chub at the same time. He refuses to acknowledge the group doesn’t particularly cherish him.
I dig the flashbacks in the series to this point. They’re never overly long, though, this episode dives a bit deeper than any yet. Still, they’re filmed in a slightly different grain, they have a dreamy feel. In this episode particularly, Trudy narrates us through some of the flashback, giving us some expository stuff but in a nice snippet-like way. They really do come off as pieces of memories.
Hap and Trudy have it out a bit, as the former sits with Leonard asleep on his shoulder, both duct taped to one another still. Trudy is going for broke on this latest scheme, following Howard – “Even if it means this?” asks Hap. So who knows what’s next for the unshakeable duo.
In the morning, Leonard decides they should just get up and go, glider on their back and everything. So they do. While Chub sleeps, they manage to get up and start heading towards the wood. They argue and bitch and get a good ways before Paco’s there, right behind them. Good effort, fellas. More duct tape for them both.
Then everyone’s packed in the van. Trudy and Howard decided on their own to only give a “deposit” for their cocaine deal, which drives Paco wild. And who are they meeting exactly? Why it’s Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh), and the maniacal Soldier (Jimmi Simpson). Certainly not going to be any trouble, right?
Things start getting brutal once Soldier calls Leonard a “nigger“, over and over, and Chub does not like that. He gets mouthy, not making anybody happy. And then Paco blows his brains out. Soldier and Angel take control of things, and Howard is devastated. It was all a fuck over. Paco did them in dirty. I knew something had to happen either way. Problem is they never brought all that money, so y’know, now they’ve got to go get that so Soldier and Angel don’t splatter everyone’s brains around the room.
Soldier: “Shhhhh. I do like to hear myself as I‘m speaking.”
On the way in the van, Soldier gets crude, wondering who Trudy is with currently. He figures it’s whoever has the “biggest ankle spanker“, which he determines is Leonard. Of course it comes out he’s gay and more of Leonard being a straight up bad ass. All sorts of focus on Trudy, taking her down a few notches. Then there’s more of Soldier getting naughty, talking about Angel, their sexual relationship. Finally, Trudy defends herself a bit and says she won’t give Soldier “the satisfaction of being scared“, which makes things incredibly tense. Even worse when the cops are parked on the road where they’re all headed. “I love cops,” says Soldier with an odd look in his eyes.
Soldier does a good song and dance until Paco pulls his crossbow and pops a cop. This starts a massacre, as they finish off the other one, and Angel shoots a few more “essential” rounds into the already dead one. This horrifies everyone in the van, naturally. Hap and Leonard are along for a very dangerous ride.
Extremely excited for the next chapter, the penultimate “War” again directed by Jim Mickle. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans. It’s getting dark and dirty now.
SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Dive”
Directed by Nick Gomez
Written by E.L. Katz
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Bottoms” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Trudy” – click here
A new chapter in the stories of Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams).
After “The Bottoms”, we now find Hap and Trudy Fawst (Christina Hendricks) still laying next to the water. A flashback shows us when Hap was getting served papers for dodging the draft. Cut to Howard (Bill Sage), Chub (Jeff Pope) and Paco (Neil Sandilands) discovering them laying there together. When Hap finally comes to things aren’t too awkward.
Meanwhile, Leonard wakes up after a night with his man, who’s busy making breakfast for them both. I fucking love Leonard. He loves hot sauce as much as I do.
Leonard: “Yeah I like spice. Can‘t taste unless it lights my ass on fire.”
Part of why I love Hap in particular is because he doesn’t buy into the 1960s hippy bullshit. Not after taking it hard for believing in all of that stuff when Vietnam was calling. But still, he is a rebel. Despite not digging on the peace and love and “fighting against the man“-type stuff, Hap is on the other side. He’s just a part of the middle class. He’s not, as Karl Marx might say, part of the lumpenproletariat such as somebody like Howard. Hap is all proletariat. He and Leonard come together so perfectly because of their similar situations in life, despite race. Yet Hap’s love for Trudy buys him into the current plan.
Great little conversation between Leonard and his boyfriend Raoul (Enrique Murciano). The latter talks a bit about hoping George Bush will be better than “that actor” Reagan. Even though Leonard believes him to have been a “damn good” one. Joe Lansdale’s writing shows here with the portrayal of Leonard, as the adaptation gives us a great look into the normal life of a gay couple at home. It isn’t pigeonholed and cliched. It’s simply two dudes, in love, conflicted, and all that stuff.
But it’s Hap and Leonard whose relationship shines through most. For the time being, Leonard isn’t sure about the “hippie scavenger hunt” while his partner wants answers soon. “A mull takes as long as a mull takes,” explains Leonard.
The desperate nature of Hap is always present. Even after a phone call, he checks the money slot in case of quarters. The reality of a character is always interesting, and Hap is real. He’s a broke, and broken in senses, type of a man. Always struggling to stay afloat, like so many of us (myself including). Part of that is honourable because he makes it work, no matter the odds. Part of that also leads him down the garden path. Right now he’s following Trudy down a path Howard is breaking in. Who knows where that’s headed.
A song on the radio takes Hap back through time. We get glimpses of Hap with Trudy. “Ain‘t a time machine, Hap,” says Leonard, warning of nostalgia. Then they have a hilarious little moment over the radio. Their comedic charm together is unreal, leaves me insatiable because they feel like such good friends.
Soon we follow a woman home from the gas station where Hap and Leonard stopped. She arrives home to find her door open, blaming it on herself. Uh oh. We know where this is headed, right? She comes across Soldier (Jimmi Simpson) and Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh) and this ends terribly; for her. These two are wildly psychopathic.
On the river, Hap and Leonard get things ready for their adventure. They set up some gator bait, as Leonard goes diving. What a wild time. “The world don‘t run on fairy dust,” says Leonard, as they talk about the plans of Howard and his gang of hippies.
Below the water Hap comes across some human remains, including a mask; the damn car! Then in a bit of excited fright he gets stuck. When Leonard spots a gator in the water things get tense. Meanwhile, Hap dreams of Trudy, back before he went to jail, her promises, her talk of how noble it is to do what he’s done, what he’ll do. Luckily Leonard hauls Hap out of the water and to safety.
News of the woman murdered earlier hits the news. But nobody worries, because for now Angel and Soldier do their nefarious deeds unbeknownst to Paco, who they’re apparently headed towards.
Back to the lake with gear goes the Scooby Gang along with Hap and Leonard. The two pals head under the water once again, together this time and using lots more equipment. But up above some law enforcement patrols the river, putting everyone in lock down briefly, as Howard and the others lay low. Regardless, Hap and Leonard scoop up the contents of the sunken car, and everyone leaves in high spirits. Only on the road home they find police waiting. All because of Prescott Jones (Jay Potter). So the gang recedes into the night instead of crashing at Howard’s place.
At Leonard’s house, they check out the findings from the river. Drinks and weed are broken out. A celebration. Some Nila cookies. “Crack a window,” Leonard shouts: “Smell like Woodstock in here.” Everyone has a good time, though, Leonard isn’t all that thrilled about hosting the get-together. His whiskey’s being drank, his table needs protection from the old mud caked cases from the car. Love the idiosyncrasies of his personality.
And just as much we get the personality of Hap, especially in this episode. The bits of his past come amazingly subtle with the short cuts to those flashbacks, as he goes in to jail sporting an American flag dress shirt they painted up and everything. The acting of Purefoy allows those memories to resonate in the moments we watch him in the current timeline while he connects with Trudy again. Their connection’s marred by his inability to connect with the ideology she’s about nowadays, and has always been. He’s changed, she hasn’t, and that doesn’t allow him what he wants: “I just want to be with you,” Hap tells Trudy. Not enough for her, apparently.
In the kitchen, Howard and Paco discover one of the cases of money is rotten. All the bills, or most of them, soaked and moldy. Then Hap and Leonard find themselves on the end of guns – Chub, Howard, and Paco are taking all the money left. That’s their decision now after doing little to no work. I knew something had to happen.
What’ll come next in the wild tales of Hap and Leonard? Find out wtih me next in the episode titled “Trudy”, which hopefully will give us more on the lady herself. Surely there’s going to be excitement either way. And hopefully, finally, Soldier and Angel will meet the gang.