***/**** Image B+ Sound B+ Extras B+
starring Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas
screenplay by Mary Harron & Guinevere Turner, based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis
directed by Mary Harron
by Bryant Frazer Books are often said to be "unfilmable," but it's the rare text that can be described as "unprintable." That was the fate that nearly befell Bret Easton Ellis's notoriously graphic first-person serial-killer memoir, American Psycho. Comprising mainly page after page of vacuous conversation among young and moneyed Wall Street types and littered with references to high-end brand names, American Psycho's internal monologue reveals the wealth-addled mindset of Patrick Bateman, an investment banker and tasteless sociopath who specializes in mergers and acquisitions and expresses himself through hateful diatribes, hilariously wrong-headed pop-culture critiques, and the occasional torturous homicide, described in sickening detail. As the book neared release, publisher Simon & Schuster faced pressure to drop it from both inside and outside the company. Feminists attacked it as a how-to manual for misogyny, murder, and mutilation. TIME published a passage about a woman being skinned, while SPY excerpted a scene describing oral sex with a severed head. S&S's own marketing department was reportedly queasy, and even the cover designer assigned to the book balked. Then, in November 1990, barely a month before its planned appearance on bookstore shelves, S&S yanked the book from its schedule. American Psycho survived, of course. Knopf picked it up and issued it as a Vintage paperback original in early 1991. But a number of booksellers declined to stock it, and a preponderance of critics excoriated it. Even so, it was enough of a success to catch the attention of producer Edward R. Pressman, who developed it as a feature project for Lionsgate, then an upstart film distributor based in Vancouver.