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Face-Off: Hannibal Lecter vs. Patrick Bateman

11.22.2012by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Face Off, we took a trip down memory lane into the early filmmaking career or Quentin Tarantino in a match up between Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. The consensus seemed to be that both films are undeniable classics, but Pulp Fiction stole the victory due to the simple fact that our readers find themselves visiting the nonlinear gem more than the former.

This week, to celebrate the release of Hitchcock, our theme is iconic film serial killers. Now I'm sure Sir Anthony Hopkins will wow us with his performance as always, so we'll honor him by including the cannibal he made us love to fear in Hannibal Lecter. His opponent, the executive moonlighting as a psycho that Christian Bale brought to life with his unhinged charm as Patrick Bateman. Both these men have earned their iconic status as two of the top villains in Cinema, but which one takes the cake? Let's discuss.
Day Job
Before his favorite hobby was uncovered by detective Will Graham, Lecter was a brilliant and well respected psychiatrist. Maybe was isn't the right word to use, as his function for two of the films was to assist authorities into brilliantly dissecting the minds and habits of other killers, thus leading to their capture. But it's not just killers the Cannibal has a knack for analyzing, we see in Silence of the Lambs this man has the ability to pierce through the soul of anyone. As Clarice can attest to. Simply put, this mans title of M.D is no fluke, freaking guy earned it.
Patrick Bateman comes from a family of wealth, Bateman grew up to become a hot shot specialist in mergers and acquisitions in a firm called Pierce & Pierce. Sounds like a career that has the potential to make anybody high strung does it not? A career in Wall Street is all about status, and all the characters brought to life in American Psycho are obsessed with it, that's a huge theme in the film, high society. Bret Easton Ellis picked the perfect profession, with the perfect social standing to capture this.
Personality
With the exception of a few moments that betray what we like to call an inside voice, Hannibal Lecter is the epitome of calm, cool, and collected. He is highly intelligent, very sophisticated, and seems to have a commendable taste in wine. While a pure sociopath, the sympathy for the Devil angle we got in this case comes in the seemingly pure love he had for his sister Mischa. Lecter witnessed the murder of said sister at the hands of a few Nazis, and grows up to make his bones on the assholes. While not capable of love, Hannibal seems to have a twisted affection for the feds he's helped, and this makes him interesting.
Patrick Bateman is an extremely insecure individual, yet fights to portray the contrary. He's addicted to sex, drugs, and music. He takes wonderful care of his body, and always makes sure he is dressed in his best. Bateman is obsessed with landing a high social standing, and to his credit, busted his ass to get there. Although he is not as respected among his peers as he desires and it's in this that causes his lashing out. The sympathy for the Devil angle we get with Bateman is in his inability to murder an all around decent girl in his secretary, the only character he seems to share a genuine human connection with. I give Bateman the edge here, the poor schmuck just finds it hard to fit in with the world he landed himself in, just has an extremely evil way of coping with it.
Murderous M.O.
Good ol Lecter, well, he knows his way around knives it would seem. Red Dragon his activities were simply alluded to in a dinner scene, Silence of the Lambs we see his intelligence put to work in a brilliant escape with the help of a blunt object, and in Hannibal well we see him eat Ray Liotta's brains. Hannibal in the films seems to aim at eating people he feels doesn't deserve to live anymore, I shudder to think what he did to Chilton. Most of Lecter's devious acts occur offscreen, or are suggested by in sadistic dialogue. Yet we are still terrified of the man...that's power.
Bateman is less reserved in his killing habits. The man murders indiscriminately and takes part in ever conceivable evil act known to mankind. He has no problem doing away with women (in which he gets some sick sexual pleasure), homeless people, and co-workers. In contrast to Hannibal, when Bateman kills he becomes mentally unhinged...and this is terrifying in a totally different way. If not more so. Ten points for the style in which he does away with his victims, the music angle was entertaining as all hell
Overall
Hannibal Lecter was menacing in one way that makes a villain makes you want to piss your pants. Anthony Hopkins portrayed the man so brilliantly, he made the right move by deciding his posture for our first glimpse of him. Perhaps the more chilling aspect of his character was not his tendency to dissect a persons body, but his undeniable ability to dissect anyone's mind. A cannibal is the last type of person you would want to be able to nail your character after a couple visits, you better be morally sound to Hannibal Lecter's standards...or he'll have you over for dinner.
Bateman is terrifying in a totally different way, he's a man who kills on impulse. He isn't in control of his emotions, all it takes is a bad day for Patrick Bateman to snap. Christian Bale I feel gives the performance of his career here, he portrays someone consumed by trying his best to maintain his lifestyle while at the same time hating it. The man hates his wife, and the feelings mutual, but they remain in it as a status relationship. The man is not without a hint of conscience, as he can't bring himself to kill a woman who represents the closest thing to purity in the film. That said, he has no qualms with being a sadistic bastard and can't seem to control it. What's more, is that for the duration of the film he wasn't locked up, he roamed through to pursue his hobby.
Patrick Bateman
So there it is folks, my two cents. Hannibal Lecter is an iconic villain indeed, and he paved the way for characters like Patrick Bateman to make their own mark. It was one film that etched Lecter in our minds forever, but for those who have seen American Psycho, Bale's turn as Bateman is I would say just as legendary. Bateman is the star of the show, the prominent figure, we follow the unraveling of his mind from beginning to end. So where do you stand? Do you stand by the sadistic genius cannibal? Or do you have a soft spot for the murderous unhinged socialite?

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which serial killer is your favourite?
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