‘Rules’ saved by black humor, editing

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 18, 2002

For the film’s first 10 minutes, I was mentally prepared to walk out of &uot;The Rules of Attraction&uot; – especially since I have my own set of rules. But I didn’t, because after that, the story caught my attention and kept it for most of the flick.

Based on Bret Easton Ellis’ second novel of the same name, the movie features New England college students who have obviously made themselves slaves to drugs, drinking and sex (for proof, you never see anyone actually attending class).

But if you enjoy dark humor, then this is a movie for you. You can thank director Roger Avary (co-writer of &uot;Pulp Fiction&uot;) for that redeeming quality, as well as a few editing tricks.

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One of the interesting features was an eye-catching split-screen effect where you see what a character is doing versus what that person is thinking. Avary elaborates on this in other places. Some are vulgar, some clever.

Be warned that there are virtually no likable characters. Well, maybe one: Lauren (well played by Shannyn Sossoman). Actually, no. You tend to feel only pity. By the story’s end, she has learned some rules the hard way – or has she?

Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek of &uot;Dawson’s Creek fame) can best be described as predatory; in fact he refers to himself as a vampire. How appropriate that his brother is Patrick of &uot;American Psycho,&uot; which was also written by Ellis). Blessed (or maybe cursed) with such a pretty-boy face, Van Der Beek uses it well for the character’s hunting, particularly when baring teeth in a ravenous grin and an evil glint shines from the eyes. Still, you won’t have reason to cry if Bateman’s money-anxious drug dealer were to actually put a bullet in his head.

There’s no political correctness to be found anywhere. Paul Owen (Ian Somerhalder) is also on the prowl, but for other men, most especially the oblivious Sean. Usually, Paul ends up frustrated and humiliated in his attempts. Like Van Der Beek, Somerhalder also has a model’s face and build, and uses that pout to great effect.

I could go on about a few other characters, but the summary remains the same: losers.

The film ends with as close to closure as one can hope, so don’t expect say you weren’t warned. If you want a movie with a message, then go see &uot;Tuck Everlasting.&uot;

Grade: C+