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The Big Sleep - by Raymond Chandler

The Big Sleep

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Las Vegas

The Gift ElectroniquÈ

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This week:

American Psycho

Filthy says:
"I can't believe the Brits didn't make this shit!"


First the good news, kids. Old Filthy has himself a new job, a new boss, and I'm making more fucking money than those bastards at the Ralston Amoco were paying me. As many of you know, I lost my job at the gas station when the EPA said the gas tanks had to be replaced because they were seeping unleaded fuel into the water table. So, the station closed. When renovating the place, my Goddamn boss decided to eliminate the full service bay leaving this gas jockey with nothing to do. I could have taken a job at the new station, but I would have just sat behind the fucking counter taking people's credit cards. Where's the job satisfaction in that?

Instead, I decided to grow as a person, and move out of pumping gas. I accepted a lucrative position as "trainee" at the Family Dollar. After three months, I lose the trainee tag and get a raise to $6.50 an hour (more than the Mrs. is pulling in at the fabric store), I get all the ribbon candy I can eat, and I get 20% off any other shit we have in the store, like Li'l Debbie Snack Cakes.

Plus, I am a shelver, which means I can ignore customers when they ask where shit is because I'll be too busy stacking Smack Ramen. The other perk at the Family Dollar is I'm allowed to hassle teenagers who are shoplifting. I can even tackle them. Mrs. Filthy is happy because we'll have the money to fix the busted toilet, and it feels like a thousand bucks to be a productive member of society again. If you're in Arvada, stop by the Family Dollar and say hello. I might ignore you, though.

The bad news is that "American Psycho" sucks. It sucks in the same way that every other stupid asshole who makes fun of the eighties sucks. My basic complaint is, yeah, there was some stupid shit going on in the eighties, but pointing it out isn't funny or educational. This movie is like spending a night in one of those "retro" bars that the assholes go to, where they laugh at the eighties, pretending they weren't wearing leg-warmers and listening to the "Flashdance" soundtrack.

Christian Bale is Patrick Bateman, an executive at some fancy-ass Wall Street firm during the 1980s. When he isn't in the office doing nothing, or dining on the fancy cuisine of the time, he's out killing other rich fucks. He bludgeons them with an axe, shoots them, and rips them up with coat hangers. The reason he has for killing these people is that they have nicer business cards than him, are hookers, or are annoyingly whiny. All sorts of gory stuff that thankfully takes place off screen. Eventually, he grows to hate his uncontrollable murderous tendencies so much that he tries to get caught. And that's about it, really.

The question is whether he is, or whether he is just a delusional wacko who wishes he killed all the annoying people he met. Is he a sociopath, or is he like the rest of us with these grand revenge schemes playing in our heads? Do we all have these days where we want to hurt someone, and what if every day was like that? I know I get pissed off, and I'll often chase the neighbor's yappy poodle with harm on my mind, but I never do it.

The movie proposes that in the eighties, everyone was reduced to such simple greed motives that there was little difference between a guy on Wall Street and a serial killer. It succeeds in proposing this, but it doesn't deliver any convincing argument.

That premise is a simplistic bowl of bullshit, warmed over once for "American Psycho." My biggest beef is that not only is that not original thinking, it's simplistic and not supported by any evidence in the movie, and it's a little late for these Hollywood assholes to be satirizing the eighties.

Maybe there is a lesson to learn from the eighties about greed, but not for me since I was too fucking busy getting my G.E.D. and learning about carburetors at technical school. I have no interest reliving, in detail, the lives of rich fucks from long ago. They had nothing to say then, and they have nothing to say now. The shiny surface of this movie reinforces that.

Besides the fact that I hate when the hypocrites in Los Angeles want to teach me a moral lesson, "American Psycho" is so detached from itself that it doesn't even drive the point home. The movie is too fucking clean and polished and we never get inside anyone's head to see the difference between the surface and the motive. I watched completely removed, completely uninvolved, and the ultimate collapse of the main character meant absolute nothing. This is the look the director Mary Harron was going for and she does it well, but why?

We learn nothing about what rich people owned in the eighties. Yes, the sets are lovingly detailed, and yes they are very true to their period. But it ends there, with no statement about them other than the obvious "We're so much cooler now." Satire is not showing us embarrassing objects from the past. Satire would showing us how we still want that shit, and "American Psycho" is too busy being a catalog to do that.

Christian Bale is either brilliant or worthless as the lead. I have no fucking clue. He managed to keep me at a distance, totally disinterested by his portrayal of the serial killer. I should either hate or love him, but instead I was neither. Same with every other character. It's like they're in a Whit Stillman film, but loaded on Valium. Reese Witherspoon is wasted in a small role where she is nothing but a shrill harpie. Honestly, I don't know what this movie wanted me to make of her.

Chloë Sevigny is good as Bale's secretary, and also the only character who showed any emotion. But, her role is small, and she represents the "working class." While this story is aiming for lofty statements, it can't help falling back on the old and lame cliché that the common folks are saints. Watch me steal the Playboy Channel from my cable provider and you'll know that ain't true.

Maybe it's a comedy, but it's not a good one. I don't think putting a Phil Collins record on the turntable is funny. It was shitty music in the eighties, and pointing out now that it was shitty then doesn't make it any better. Same with Robert Palmer and Whitney Houston. Yet, this movie goes to long lengths to prove how cool it is by making fun of bad music. I hope to God that it gets made fun of by some song fifteen years from now.

Rich people ate small, fancy portions of food in the eighties. They had funny-looking metal furniture. So fucking what? What's the point? That this movie is so detailed and looks so much like "Architectural Digest" from 1985 is not funny. The only people who laugh are the same kind of assholes who laugh at "intellectual" shit on PBS, not because it's funny, but because they think the dumb people don't get it and they don't want to be confused with them.

A couple of the scenes are scary. I mean, they are genuinely gruesome and creepy. And they succeed, but they are too far apart and separated by too many scenes of apartments filled with eighties furniture and music to add up to much.

It's bad moviemaking. It's a movie that has nothing to say except "Aren't we clever making fun of something old?" No lessons to learn, no effort to shed new light on the past, and no clever jokes. Two fingers for "American Psycho" and three fingers for the eighties.

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