What A Total Psychopath

In the world of the narcissistic lady-killer Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), appearance is everything, whether it's the perfectly designed nouvelle cuisine he consumes at the chic Yuppie restaurant du jour or his own sculpted and pampered body, as gleaming and flawless as a Calvin Klein ad. In Mary Harron's bold, coolly satiric adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's infamous novel "American Psycho," we are wittily plunged back into the soulless excesses of Reagan-era Wall Street, where the reigning emotions are greed and disgust, and the "inside no longer matters."

Our tour guide is Bateman himself, a white-collar serial killer who flies into a panic when a colleague produces a business card with better lettering than his own but is curiously unruffled when he must carve up his latest victim with a chain saw. Harron ("I Shot Andy Warhol"), who adapted the book with Guinevere Turner, is smart to tone down the book's violence and play up the dark humor. Her stylish movie has the sleek, chilly design of those minimalist offices favored by the masters of the universe. Bale plays the blankly beautiful Bateman with just the right tone of vapid menace. But after an hour of dissecting the '80s culture of materialism, narcissism and greed, the movie begins to repeat itself. It becomes more grisly and surreal, but not more interesting. Conceptually, this savage cartoon ends up as trapped in surfaces as its shallow antihero: it's all dressed up with nowhere to go.

American PsychoLions Gate
Opens April 14