I don't remember when I first watched today's film, but I know that once I did, I couldn't get enough of it, watching it several times. And no, I didn't watch it because the graphic content appealed to me, but rather because as a writer, I was fascinated by the mystery, rewatching it to try and pick up on any subtle hints about what's really going on in the main character's messed up world... not to mention his messed up head.
I don't care for most fan theories since most of them take incredible and often idiotic leaps of logic for the purpose of being edgy or profound. Meanwhile, I can assure you the writers are laughing their asses off at you. That aside, this movie (as well as the novel of the same name upon which it is based) has spawned countless fan theories as viewers try to unravel the tangled web that is 2000's American Psycho.
As the movie opens, we're introduced to our villainous protagonist, Patrick Bateman (played by chameleon method actor Christian Bale). An uptight investment banker, Bateman takes us on a tour of his boring, affluent existence, his vacuous friends and lovers, his taste in music, and even a detailed step-by-step outline of his exhaustive daily morning routine. As we get to know Bateman, his homicidal urges slowly rise closer to the surface as he grows bolder by the day, but his spoken threats are usually lost in the loud, disinterested backdrop of Reagan-era New York City. After Bateman takes his first victim, a homeless black man in an alley, the dam breaks, and he's no longer able to control his homicidal urges.
Taking advantage of a case of mistaken identity, Bateman lures his co-worker Paul Allen back to his apartment, which he's prepared with drop cloths and newspaper. While lecturing Allen on the merits of Huey Lewis and The News, Bateman kills Allen with an axe. After Allen, Bateman's violence escalates, and he begins preying on prostitutes and anyone else who offends him, culminating in a bloodbath that leaves him questioning reality.
American Psycho is an absolute mind fuck. Of course the most burning question viewers have is, did anything we just watched actually happening? Is it all in Bateman's head? Is Bateman actually licking the walls in some nuthouse somewhere in Queens, rambling about Huey Lewis and Phil Collins to any orderly who will listen? Or did he really kill all (or at least some) of those people, but the yuppies around him are too self-absorbed and delusional themselves to take him seriously? There's ample evidence to support both theories.
The cast is made up of enough interchangeable pretty white boys in thousand-dollar suits to sell the notion that Bateman could very well maintain a veil of anonymity. It's clear none of these people actually truly know each other except for those closest in Bateman's inner circle. Bateman is misidentified twice in the film, as two different people, which again calls Bateman's sanity into question. Is he really Patrick Bateman at all?
American Psycho has been called an instruction manual for killing women by some critics, and it's true that Patrick Bateman is the poster child for misogyny, but his portrayal in the film is toned down considerably from the novel. The story certainly brings to light the fears and dangers faced by sex workers in America, and unfortunately, that hasn't changed much since the 1980s. If sexual assault and violence against women are triggers for you, I would recommend skipping American Psycho.
Overall, American Psycho is a powerful, thought-provoking psychological thriller with plenty of re-watch value if you have the stomach for it. The dark humor will leave you giggling guiltily, and if nothing else, the movie's worth watching to see Christian Bale running down a dark hallway wearing nothing but white sneakers and revving a chainsaw. If you don't mind movies with ambiguous endings and like playing detective and/or shrink, give it a go.