A defense of American Psycho 2 and the movie it could have been
Now, calm down please. Despite the headline, we’re not actually here to praise a movie called American Psycho 2. Rather, we’re here to defend the film that could have been The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die, a 2002 Canadian serial killer comedy starring a very young Mila Kunis, hot in the thralls of her success on the hit (and sorely missed) sitcom That ’70s Show. Confused? Really, it’s not all that complicated. Kunis did indeed sign on to appear in a film called The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die, from a same-named script by Alex Sanger and Karen Craig and directed by Morgan J. Freeman (note the “J”…it aint the guy from The Shawshank Redemption). That script is a clever, dark and twisted noir about a sociopath who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. A female Thomas Ripley. It’s a good script and deserved a better fate than what befell it.
See, sometime during production, and I’m not sure if it was in the thick of it or at the tail end of it, some genius at Lionsgate decided that the film had more than enough similarities to their hit 2000 film American Psycho that it could easily be tweaked into being a sequel. So a rather sad and inept prologue was added, along with some dipsh*t voice-over dialogue and a scene or two of padding that mentioned the name “Patrick Batemen.” Et voila, a sequel to American Psycho that absolutely no one wanted was born.
And Kunis didn’t want it either. She was young, but not dumb and was furious about being “duped” into appearing in a film that so crassly ripped and riffed on Mary Harron’s deft adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis‘ punishing novel. Appropriately, the direct-to-video film was savaged by cynical critics and renters who couldn’t see past the gimmick and, despite Kunis’ swelling fame, the film faded into obscurity.
And if you’re one of the many who scoffed at the picture, I ask you to book 88 minutes of your life to perhaps give it another look. Because nestled in the lame framework is a pretty great little black comedy with a solid leading turn by Kunis and some hilarious and sharp supporting work. When I say that William Shatner has never been better, I mean it. Okay, maybe he’s better in Kingdom of the Spiders. But it’s close.
Kunis stars as Rachel Newman who, in that awful opening sequence we mentioned, tell us, the audience, that her babysitter dragged her along on a date with the late Patrick Bateman, corporate serial killer from the book and film American Psycho. Seems that while a plastic-coated Bateman (played by Michael Kremko, a million times removed from Christian Bale) was carving up the reproductive system of her sitter, Rachel escaped her binding, stabbed Bateman to death and simply wandered home and never mentioned the incident to anyone.
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Now Rachel is all grown-up and stark raving man, naturally. After developing a psycho-sexual addiction to serial killers, she opts to pursue a career in the FBI and obsesses over her teacher (Shatner), an aged lothario who pits his students against each other, when he hints that he’ll be hiring a teaching assistant in the next semester. Rachael wants that gig. Bad. And when her colleagues begin to get in her way, she ruthlessly murders them, cunningly covering her tracks as she gets closer and closer to her target. Meanwhile, a handsome psychiatrist (Forever Knight‘s Gerrant Wyn Davies) is on to her dirty deeds and is getting seriously creeped out.
American Psycho 2 — or rather, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die — is a strange, entertaining and surprising little film. Bloody and funny and twisty and turny and Kunis pulls it all off. We like Rachel, despite her streak of remorseless and lethal evil. And the men and women who end up on the end of her knives, very often deserve it. Or at least are undone by their own unsavory antics. Shatner is amusing as all get out as the horny Prof, but as the film progresses, he begins to develop the character and really act. Not just chew scenery. Act. It’s a treat to see him give this his all. And Wyn Davies is fantastic as the confused and nervous shrink who becomes an unlikely hero. Or does he? There are no heroes in this nifty little cold-hearted noir, just vulgar people and less vulgar people.
On the deleted scenes on Lionsgate’s old DVD, you can see the clapboard clacking with the original title written on it. Not that anyone would bother doing this, but I wish there was a way to go back and re-edit the piece, eliminating the stupid Bateman angle and pushing it closer to the film it was originally designed to be. But until that day comes, we do have this version and more forgiving viewers willing to look past the poor commercial choices of the studio might just thrill to discover a cool, endlessly entertaining serial killer flick, one that needs much more love than it gets.