Very few rock writers end up doing anything very much at all. Many rise to glory on the back of the latest musical fad, become so obsessed that they live and breathe every drop of it, every day, and they finally realise they have nothing else to write about.
Fortunately, Mary Harron has escaped the rock writer's cul-de-sac and directed "American Psycho" with the same earnestness and passion she brought to her journalism. Unlike many directors who are keen to furnish the big screen with ideas, Harron has a strong sense of narrative structure.
"American Psycho" is partly a full-bodied, punchy thriller, and primarily an excellent character study of a narcissistic, amoral 80s Wall Street money maker. Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman, a label-obsessed hard nut who finally experiences a crisis that almost devours him. No-one would deserve it more than he. Bateman also, by the way, commits gruesome murders as his only means of experiencing deep emotion of any kind. It was indeed the wholesale violence of the Bret Easton Ellis novel that caused many cultural commentators (and not a few readers) to freak out.
Bale, in a wonderfully showy role that will surely guarantee stardom, invests the disturbed Bateman with massive amounts of charisma and power without - in the big, explosive moments - blotting out the finer details. It is these which Harron binds into her taut direction, and a scene depicting the egotistical killer and his equally soulless colleagues competing over business cards is a typical example of where the film clings to the memory. Key sequences include comedy and cruelty in equal measure, thus cleverly confusing the audience by insisting on a mixed reaction. "Reservoir Dogs" pulled off this effect rather well. "American Psycho", for its part, is the best monster movie in years.