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Ashton Kutcher in Spread.

Review by Michael Edwards

IndieLondon Rating: 1 out of 5

ASHTON Kutcher takes on a ‘serious’ role in this pale continuation of the themes of Cruel Intentions, a decade after the film it imitates so blandly first caused so much controversy.

Substituting Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair’s lesbian kiss with a lot of poor sex scenes and Kutcher wandering around bare-chested for 90-minutes does little to make this either as controversial or as tantalising as its predecessor.

The plot of Spread is simple, as Kutcher plays Nikki (anyone else think that was a girl’s name?) a pretty boy who moves to LA to live the easy life. Getting by on his looks, charm and an encyclopedic knowledge of chat-up lines, Nikki lives his life by mooching off of rich ladies, who he picks up in a local nightclub.

It’s a cheap and easy life but one, as you may have guessed, essentially devoid of real meaning.

Thus, the arc of the film is the predictable shift from showing Nikki as this iconic playboy who we must all want to be, all the way until he realises that this makes him a glorified prostitute, and generally a bad person, and decides to try and redeem himself.

His comuppance comes when he meets a girl living the same lifestyle as him, and predictably falls from her: which ends in a painful (but nowhere near as dangerous and exciting as Cruel Intentions) conclusion.

I won’t give any more spoilers but suffice to say that his idea of redemption is pretty uninspired; amounting to little more than a basic piece of irony.

It’s hard to know exactly who this will appeal to. The storyline lacks drama, with the only real human interest coming from a few supporting characters who are ostensibly his real friends but are mostly just hurt by his arrogance and selfishness.

Meanwhile, Nikki’s own story doesn’t quite go to sufficient extremes to either encourage the audience to hate him and will his downfall, or to see an inner goodness that needs to redeem itself from his naively hedonistic lifestyle.

Add to this the problem of the age of the cast, and there’s real concerns that nothing on the bare bones of this film is worthwhile. Ashton Kutcher (31) and Rachel Blanchard (33) are supposed to be hot young things in Hollywood, but despite their baby-faces they both look to be a little past the optimal ages for these roles, and the last lady who Nikki leeches onto is supposed to be a wealthy lawyer but comes off more as an under-sexed and over-the-hill swimsuit model.

All this may sound overly harsh, or at least overly analytical, for a film about a young playboy learning his lesson. But sadly, the film is deserving of such attentions.

Its simultaneous desire to be at once sexy/cool in depicting the wealthy lifestyle of LA, but at the same time show how vacuous and damaging it can be is not just predictable and dull but, ultimately, unsuccessful.

Director David Mackenzie spends too long showing (or rather hammering in) just how sexy and cool Nikki’s life is, and forgets to sow the seeds of doubt as he does so. The downfall thus feels as fake and false as LA itself.

Even the final shot (easily the most amusing part of the film) which is, bizarrely, a close up of a frog eating a mouse feels like an obvious and unnecessarily self-conscious attempt to round things up cleanly.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 96mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 17, 2010