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American Psycho (2000)

Director: Marry Harron
Stars: Christian Bale, Chloë Sevigny, Willem Dafoe, Justin Theroux, Cara Seymour, Reese Witherspoon

From the moment Christian Bale was cast in Mary Harron's adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's controversial novel American Psycho, the film had no choice but to depart from the source material. Bale, by virtue of his stupidly attractive features and glowing charm, could not be the Pat Bateman that appears (or fails to appear) on the pages of Ellis' novel.

In the novel, Bateman is a loser. Though he tries to buy the right clothes, listen to the right recordings of Les Mis, and land reservations at the hottest restaurants, no one respects him. He's the butt of all the jokes, a bore, a square. And so, as a howl against his own lack of cultural capital, he slaughters people, forcibly inserts vermin into the genitals of living women, eats a live jellyfish, et cetera. That's in the book.

In the movie, Bale turns Bateman into an icon. When he lights a cigar after axing a colleague to death, a bright splash of red artfully coating half his face, he looks fucking amazing. The violence in the film doesn't work like the violence in the novel, partially because of how much the camera loves Bale, and largely because what Ellis describes would be unfilmable. And yet both are successful works of art, anchored by successful, albeit different, portraits of the same villain. —Ross Scarano

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