Mary Harron set out to film the impossible and, for the most part, succeeded with an adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho. While not as ambiguous as the source novel, the film delivers biting hilarious satire courtesy of a career-making performance by Christian Bale. Nearly 20 years later, the film has plenty of gas in the chainsaw and just as funny as ever if you like your humor dark and bloody. Lionsgate gives American Psycho a true upgrade on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a fresh native 4K scan with Dolby Vision HDR and a very impressive Dolby Atmos audio track with some new bonus features for fans to pick through. Return the videotapes and keep the 4K, this one is Highly Recommended.
"Do you like Phil Collins?"
All handsome, rich, successful 27-year-old Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) wants to do is fit in. He buys all the right clothes. Shops only at the best places. Listens to the "it" bands like Huey Lewis and the News and has an affinity for Phil Collins. He dines daily with his friends Bryce (Justin Theroux), McDermott (Josh Lucas), and Luis (Matt Ross). When they're done running up huge tabs at the trendiest restaurants, they're doing lines at the hippest nightclubs in New York. When Patrick isn't isn't returning his tapes or tending to his rigorous daily self-care routine, he's torturing and murdering women in increasingly violent and sadistic ways… and no one seems to notice.
American Psycho hit theaters right as my high school career was coming to a close. It was a big movie of the winter season courting any amount of controversy a movie based on a Bret Easton Ellis novel could for its extreme amount of violent content and treatment of women. I dutifully stood in line opening night, plunked down my hard-earned cash from my part-time job, and sat in a darkened theater expecting to be amazed. I didn't get it. While funny and violent, a lot of the satire flew right past me. Even though I was a child of the 80s, I didn't live anywhere near that side of it. It's only as the years moved on and I saw people I knew drift towards that sort of material-centric life where the places you ate, drank, and the labels you wore once then threw out were most important that I started to actually get this film.
In the same way Beetlejuice watches The Exorcist, American Psycho just keeps getting funnier every time I see it. As I'm closer to 40 than I was when the film first hit theaters, I have an ever-growing appreciation for its biting cultural satire, the hyper-violence, and its sadistically dark sense of humor. I hadn't seen the film all the way through in almost 14 years and I was worried that the film had passed its expiration date. I'm glad to see that worry was for nothing. While many of the references may be culturally dated, the film's satire is just as biting as it ever was. If anything it may even have some more teeth if you're at all interested in dissecting modern cultural cupidity.
Given the text it was spawned from, I have to fully tip my hat to Mary Harron for even having the gumption to try and tackle an adaptation of the book, let alone make a successful film. It's not an easy source novel to plug from. My lone criticism of the film stems from its need to try and stick closely to the events of the novel while also finding a sense of finality to the whole business. Without giving much away, the book depicts Patrick's confessional narration of events with an amount of skepticism, that the murders, as well as entire characters, could well have been products of his drug-addled unraveling psychosis. The movie goes the other way and tries to pin things as literal events which rub abrasively against the film's finale. It almost works but just misses the mark of perfection. Such as it is, the film is very good even if it leaves things within a state of severe confusion.
Through it all, Christian Bale delivers the performance that arguably helped make his career what it is today (Reign of Fire notwithstanding). True, he didn't don the cape and cowl for a few years after this film's premiere, but one can't help look at his Patrick Bateman and see a little bit of his future Bruce Wayne sitting there. Like any of his roles, he gave himself physically and mentally to the part and it shows. His maniacal energy and commitment to the part are what keeps the film alive and I can't imagine what this film would have been without him. Considering DiCaprio almost snapped the role, American Psycho could have been a very different film, and not necessarily one for the better. This Psycho may be crazy, but it's a hell of a good time. Just don't make the mistake of grabbing a copy of American Psycho 2, you need that in your life about as much as Paul Allen needs an ax.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Lionsgate upgrades American Psycho to 4K with a two-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital set. Unfortunately, the included Blu-ray is the exact same disc from 2007 and has not been upgraded. All discs are housed in a black eco-friendly case with identical slipcover artwork. The 4K Blu-ray disc loads directly to an animated main menu with traditional navigation options. All previous bonus features and new extras are included on the 4K disc.
When American Psycho first hit Blu-ray, it simply repurposed the old DVD master. Thankfully Lionsgate went back to the well for this native 4K 2.35:1 2160p transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10, as the results are a spectacular improvement over the previous Blu-ray. I really and truly wish I could source images from this disc because it is a night and day difference. It shouldn't be all that surprising considering the vintage of the previous disc but suffice to say fans should be very happy with this new 4K Ultra HD release.
Set aside improvements in detail, colors, black levels, whites, contrast - the first thing you're going to see and appreciate is the simple fact that the numerous and constant instances of speckling and staining and the outright noisy grainfield have been taken care of. This is a fresh sparkling presentation and it shows. Details are immaculate, allowing you to fully appreciate the sterile soulless life Patrick has built for himself. Facial features, deconstructed jackets and clothing, and the film's excellent 80s production design are all on display. The film grain is present and is nicely resolved without being noisy or intrusive.
The film also enjoys a nice Dolby Vision HDR push that breaths a lot of new life into the film's color pallet. People actually look like they have a healthy complexion! Primaries are robust with some great highlights coming from the colorful food people eat, the bright New York taxi cabs, and the copious amounts of blood on sheets, floors, and chainsaws. Black levels are nice and inky and give the image a new sense of three-dimensional depth that was absent in the previous SDR Blu-ray release. This isn't a 100% perfect score, however. There are a few scenes where black levels aren't quite up to snuff, they're a tad on the brown side, and there are a few soft scenes that still stick out but overall, it's a notable improvement. As for whites, well, all you have to do is compare business cards. White's are pristine - when they're not covered in someone's blood. Switching between the old Blu-ray and this new 4K Ultra HD disc, it's easy to see and appreciate how far home video technology has come. This film was in a serious need of an upgrade and we've finally got it with this disc.
To say the previous American Psycho Blu-ray had a lackluster lifeless audio package is a bit of an understatement. It should come as a surprise to no one that this new Dolby Atmos audio mix eviscerates the old mix. Everything from dialogue and sound effects to the film's great use of classic 80s tunes to the great score John Cale enjoy a serious and noteworthy uptick in quality. Truth be told I would have been happy with a nice lossless mix, but I really appreciate that Lionsgate went the extra mile. The soundscape is well spaced allowing for plenty of atmosphere to set the scene.
The extra channel spacing helps give big scene sequences a lot of life. Anytime Bateman and his pals are in a big empty restaurant or a loud and busy club, you can really feel and appreciate the added room this mix affords. You also get a great sense of distance when that chainsaw revs its engine down the hallway. Levels are spot on without any sort of softness issues to report. As far as object-based activity, there really isn't much to speak of save for one terrific element: the narration.
This probably is one of my favorite uses of object-based activity, the mix uses the vertical channels for Patrick Bateman's narrations. It comes at you as this eerie disembodied voice from God and it's really effective without smashing out other sound elements. When he's not narrating, those channels are mostly used for adding space to various busy locations. The scene in the bathroom where they're trying to do coke that's been mixed with sweetener is a great highlight of the activity in the room. Taken as a whole it's probably not the best or most aggressive Atmos mix ever released, but it works beautifully for this film offering up plenty of sonic treats.
In addition to the old bonus features, Lionsgate has seen fit to offer up fans a couple of new extras including a brand new audio commentary track with Mary Harron and they brought over a longer Book to Screen mini-doc that had only previously been available on DVD. It may not be a lot of new stuff, but it's still pretty good and well worth digging into. All of the bonus features are found on the 4K disc.
American Psycho may not be a classic adaptation of a revered novel, but it is a wickedly wild and violently hilarious satire just the same. Mary Harron managed to craft a solid and entertaining film from the particularly difficult Bret Easton Ellis source novel while Christian Bale goes full out in a terrific performance that should have gotten him a lot more attention in its day. All these years later the film's satire still has plenty of bite and is just as relevant even if the cultural references are decidedly dated. Lionsgate has made sure fans will want to upgrade for this release by giving it a gorgeous native 4K transfer with Dolby Vision HDR and a terrific new Dolby Atmos audio mix. If that wasn't enough, they brought in some brand new bonus features to make the package all the more attractive. Highly Recommended.