American Psycho: Killer Collector’s Edition (DVD)

Starring Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Justin Theroux

Directed by Mary Harron

Released by Lions Gate Films

This is how horror of the new millennium began. Not with a teenager cracking self referential witticisms at the end of a glistening blade, but with a profusely sweating, machismo-oozing, forehead vein-throbbing Christian Bale swinging an axe into Jared Leto’s face. This Grand Guignol-inspired, hilarious act of violence (at least, I thought the “execution” of it all was funny) set to Huey Lewis and the News, and the sardonic voice with which the ’80s are depicted in Harron’s adaptation of the controversial Brett Easton Ellis novel (love it or hate it, I loved it) of the same name, is dissected for analysis to the fullest degree by critics and the film’s crew alike in this “Killer Collector’s Edition,” a package whose arrival feels opportunistic but is nothing short of essential.

Five years ago Lions Gate released a whimpering scamp of a presentation that, granted, was an uncut version. Huge fans, i.e. me, suffice to say, were disappointed. Yeah, you can look at this new release as an apt one since it arrives just in time for Batman Begins‘ release, but truth be told, I’m glad a nice chunk of time has passed before the Gate decided to slip us the ol’ double dip. Why? American Psycho is the type of film that needs to marinate in the collective juices of the genre film community. Like its protagonist, it’s an indefinable, abominable, cynical and chuckle-worthy Rubix cube of a film that will either frustrate, entertain or give its viewer a heady reflection on the materialism and identity-crisis-mixed-with-madness it portrays.

I can’t imagine anyone else playing Psycho protagonist Patrick Bateman other than Bale. Not Leonardo DiCaprio and certainly not Johnny Depp (although I hold the latter very high on my “favorite actors” list), both of whom were contenders to play the bloodthirsty Wall Street yuppie. The details behind their fleeting involvement are explained in the disc’s choicest cut, American Psycho: From Book to Screen (48m 51s), a four-part documentary – hosted by Sarah Elquist (wearing sunglasses to mask the fact she’s reading from cue cards) – that culls the likes of film critic Amy Taubin, producer Ed Pressman, co-writer Guinevere Turner, director Mary Harron, Film Comment‘s Gavin Smith and more for their take on the source material’s backlash (especially from the feminine groups), the media frenzy stirred by DiCaprio’s involvement and the bold move to hire a female writer and director to tackle the adaptation in the first place (Psycho was initially a vehicle for Stuart Gordon, then David Cronenberg).

Harron and Turner hold their own quite well, however, both in the documentary as well as in their own respective commentaries where, yes, some material is rehashed but the flow is never broken here by the views of the contributing critics. In her commentary, Harron is allotted more freedom to defend her penchant to get as much coverage as possible during principal photography (because it’s all about the options she’ll have during editing), the film’s creative sound design and its ludicrous portrait of the male world. Turner takes this one step further in her track to say Bateman’s a “big dork,” a task Bale took on with much gusto, holding character even while off camera.

If you get this far on the disc and wonder where Bale’s presence in the bonus material lies, you get a morsel just prior to the disc’s deleted scenes (11m 55s) which are prefaced by an on-set interview with key members of the cast. They’re also accompanied by an optional commentary track with Harron who seems to have only one regret about cutting a scene in which Justin Theroux jumps off a balcony because he performed the stunt himself. In another documentary, The ’80s: Downtown (31m 44s) takes a glance at the decade of excess with those New York natives who survived it. Culture, art movements and the media are discussed and applied to Harron’s film.

Just around the corner from these features is a gallery of three television spots and two trailers and in an act of cross promotion you’ll also find trailers for Undead, High Tension, Rules of Attraction (a flick centering on Patrick Bateman’s younger bro, if ya didn’t know) and the Swimming With Sharks: Special Edition.

At long last American Psycho has been given its home video due, ready again for discovery and heated debate (I just wish Ellis himself appeared on the disc). The new 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a rich and clean one, enhancing the fluctuation between the stark white nature of Bateman’s apartment and the steamy urban night exteriors. This asceticism is also represented in an eye-friendly menu design where each page features an object from Bateman’s lethal and “sophisticated” lifestyle.

4 ½ out of 5

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Jon Condit

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