Film Review – The Rules of Attraction, The Core, Cradle 2 the Grave

Cool Beans

(Originally published in Inform Magazine, April 2003)

The Rules of Attraction stars James Van Der Beek and his curious Desperate Dan head; one of three people who are all attending college, all with more money than brain cells and all having problems with their sex lives. Van Der Beek plays Sean Bateman, who is no doubt a relation of the ‘hero’ of that other Brett Easton Ellis book American Psycho.
Yep, The Rules of Attraction is a Brett Easton Ellis adaptation. Interesting fact: the ‘Easton’ in his name is made up; his publisher thought Brett Ellis sounded too dull. This facileness sums up Ellis pretty well. He writes deliberately flat, shallow books about cool things that youth-chasing ex-addict reviewers can rave about. The Rules of Attraction focuses on a group of way too cool people doing various unpleasant, but still cool, things.
Sean is a drug dealer and general psycho (“a rich motherfucking motherfucker,” as his equally psychotic supplier eloquently describes him) who for some reason has fallen helplessly in love with Lauren. In a way it’s understandable as she is played by the drop dead gorgeous Shannyn Sossamon, but then he’s shagging drop dead gorgeous women all the time. Lauren, meanwhile, fancies the absent Victor, but wouldn’t mind shagging the psychotic – but still good-looking – Sean in the meantime, if only she’d stop looking through her book of venereal diseases to put herself off. But more beautiful than her is Paul, who also fancies Sean a fair bit.
Director Roger Avary applies a fair amount of craft to this story, but such filmular distractions as split-screen and, most spectacularly, a speedy summing up of Victor’s European vacation that goes on and on in a blur of shagging and drug taking can’t hide the fact that this is not quite as good as it thinks it is. Part of the problem is Ellis’s endless fascination with ‘cool’. Everybody in this film is resolutely cool, even when they’re shooting up, talking bollocks and generally acting like gits. We’re probably not supposed to feel sympathy for the characters, but an hour in and you really don’t care who shags who anymore, which is a shame seeing as that’s the point of the film.
To be cool, everybody also has to be great looking too. For such a bunch of fuck ups, it’s surprising how sexy everyone looks, with the surprising exception of Van Der Beek, who really roughs himself up convincingly. Everyone still wants to shag him though. When Sean shags Lauren’s roommate out of frustration that he can’t shag Lauren, it’s hard to sympathise when the roommate is equally gorgeous. No-one in this film is ugly, fat or acne ridden, not even the pathetic girl who has such a crush on Sean that she kills herself in a bathtub to the sounds of Nilsson’s Without You; a truly disturbing scene.
At least The Rules of Attraction is trying to be clever. The Core is as dumb as Hollywood gets, and a true indicator that no matter what goes on in the world, movies never change. Apparently, the Earth’s magnetic core is screwed up, with some weird consequences. People with pacemakers drop dead, pigeons go on suicide missions in Trafalgar Square (nothing to do with Red Ken), and the space shuttle goes so far off course it crashes in Los Angeles. The plucky pilot who saves the day is Oscar-winning Hilary Swank, and together with the usual motley crew you only get in films, they are to go on a mission to the centre of the earth to put the core right again. “The world’s biggest weapon of mass destruction will save the world,” referring to the nukes that will do the job.
In the days of Jules Verne, no-one really knew what was at the centre of the planet; nowadays we do know but we cheerfully ignore it. Thanks to a miracle material called ‘Unobtainium’ (do you think I’m joking?) they can dig their way down and not worry about extreme heat or the huge pressure of the earth around them. “That’s impossible!” Explaining most of the plot are scientists Aaron Eckart (hippyish, charismatic), Stanley Tucci (foppish, terrible wig) and Tchéky Karyo (foreign, doomed the moment he mentions his kids) although they tend to do it in easy-to-understand metaphors. “It’s like ripples in a pond,” or, “it’s like keys on a keyring”. Eckart is supposed to be romantically attracted to Swank, but we all know it’s Karyo he’s in love with. When Karyo inevitably checks out (see above), Eckart cries like a girl.
The Core is neatly summed up in that the big twist near the end of the film is given away in the trailer. Big, dumb, but not without fun, the latter of which is sorely lacking from Cradle 2 The Grave although it tries its socks off. So desperate to please is it, that at one point we have Jet Li kicking the shit out of a bunch of bare knuckle fighters in a cage, DMX stealing a quad bike and giving the police the run around and Gabrielle Union doing a striptease. The rest of the film tries to be just as obvious, but you’ve got to have your brain removed to really enjoy it.

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About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at)gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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