The Killer Inside

American Psycho

But to be a serial killer, a psychopath who hacks up business associates, beats the shit out of hookers, and keeps the heads of models in his freezer next to the yogurt, well, that's being a somebody. And so Patrick convinces himself he is crazy, a victim of his own bloodlust: "Something horrible is happening inside me, and I don't know why," he narrates, trying to sell us and himself on the idea. "I think my mask of sanity is about to slip." But does it really? Are these horrible things we see onscreen really going on, or are they merely products of his desperate imagination?

Harron, rather brilliantly, never quite lets on, though even the film's opening moment hints at the dreaminess and the fantasy of it all. What we think are drops of blood pouring down in front of a white backdrop are nothing but rivulets of dessert toppings, trappings of a gourmet meal. We can believe nothing we see or hear after that. Patrick speaks out loud, screams threats to those who treat him like a shadow ("Bitch, I want to stab you to death and play around in your blood!" he shouts to a bartender), but no one pays attention. He may be crazy, but he's also a coward -- so much so that he spares the life of one woman whom he could off with ease. Not even his lawyer believes him when he confesses to two dozen killings; not even the cop (Willem Dafoe) investigating the disappearance of Paul Allen can conceive of Bateman committing any crime, much less murder. He's a pop-culture product, an amalgam of porn videotapes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But you can't kill with a Blockbuster card.

Bale plays Patrick as though he is made from chiseled concrete and corrugated cardboard. He's beautiful and anonymous, a perfect body propping up an empty head. Patrick explains he is searching for "catharsis," but when he finds none, he implodes. The man is a walking mass of nerve endings, looking for a shot of Novocain to ease his pain. If we are to assume these murders have not even taken place, then Bale manages to render Patrick as an almost-sympathetic character, a sad man who has lost some part of himself and wishes only to reconnect. Perhaps he really does have feelings (compassion? love?) for the dowdy, lonely Jean. But he has no idea how to show them to her, save, perhaps, for shooting her skull full of nails. Or, at the very least, imagining it.

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