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Controversial Christian Bale Film Arrives on Netflix This July

Controversial Christian Bale Film Arrives on Netflix This July

American Psycho—a movie that got Christian Bale attention for all the wrong reasons—begins streaming on Netflix in July.

Bale, of course, bolted to the top of Hollywood’s A-list with his classic turn as Bruce Wayne/Batman in writer-director Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy from 2005-2012. In between the Batman films, Bale also won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in Mark Wahlberg’s boxing biopic The Fighter.

The actor’s star only continued to rise after The Dark Knight trilogy concluded in 2012, appearing in such critically acclaimed hits as 2013’s American Hustle, 2015’s The Big Short, 2018’s Vice and 2019’s Ford vs. Ferrari.

Back in 1999, however, Bale landed the lead role in American Psycho, a sadistic horror thriller based on author Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial bestselling novel of the same name.

American Psycho debuts on Netflix on Monday, July 1.

Set in 1987, American Psycho stars Bale as Patrick Bateman, a rich New York City investment banker who seems normal to the outside world—but in private he harbors a twisted identity as a serial killer who gruesomely tortures women and dismembers their bodies after murdering them.

The protests over American Psycho didn’t begin with Christian Bale’s film but with the publication of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel in 1991. Word about the carnage in American Psycho surfaced before the book was published. According to The Guardian, the heat over the pending release of the novel was so intense that Ellis received 13 death threats. The Guardian reported that Ellis had to sign a declaration to acknowledge that he read the threats as a way to prevent the publisher from being sued in the event the author was murdered.

Among the protesters of American Psycho was the National Organization of Women, which called for a boycott of the book, the Guardian reported. In addition, Entertainment Weekly noted, there were also protests against American Psycho by female employees at Simon & Schuster, which was originally supposed to publish the novel.

EW said the famed book publisher jettisoned the novel after a barrage of protests but let Easton keep $300,000 advance for it. Eventually, American Psycho was published by Random House’s paperback imprint Vintage Books.

According to EW, one of the biggest critics of American Psycho at the time it made its way into bookstores was Roger Straus Jr., the highly-respected president and CEO of book publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Per EW, Straus called American Psycho “the most revolting book” he had ever read. “To say that it has any redeeming social value, or that mainstream film and television contain equally offensive material, is bulls—t,” Straus said. “The horrors perpetrated on women in that book go far beyond anything that has either been written or depicted. I’m sorry. I just don’t see the thing as being defendable.”

Also starring Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny and Jared Leto, the movie version of American Psycho was not surprisingly the target of protests as filming got underway with Bale in Toronto in early 1999.

According to Empire, American Psycho director Mary Herron tried to temper the intensity of the protests by Canadian anti-violence groups at the time by saying, “I’m not really interested in violence, so none of the ghastly things that are in the book make it into the movie.”

Despite Herron’s promises, American Psycho had to make some cuts from the film after, per Variety, it was slapped by the Motion Picture Association of America with an NC-17 rating. Herron, according to IMDb, trimmed a pair of scenes to get the film an R rating, but those scenes were restored for the home video versions of the film.

As for the critical response to American Psycho on Rotten Tomatoes, the film was given a 68% “fresh” rating based on 154 reviews that date from 2000 to 2023. The RT Critics’ Consensus reads, “If it falls short of the deadly satire of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel, American Psycho still finds its own blend of horror and humor, thanks in part to a fittingly creepy performance by Christian Bale.” In addition, RT users gave American Psycho an 85% “fresh” Audience Score based on 250,000-plus reviews.

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Source: Forbes, The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, Empire, IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes