The Rules Of Attraction review

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The poster for The Rules Of Attraction features 28 soft toys going at it. Bunnies sit on each others' faces, piggies indulge in a spot of straddle and doggies... Well, the tagline says it all: "We all run on instinct".

Marketing-wise, it's borderline genius, guaranteed to snag the eye while also bottling the movie's anarchic flavour. Think about it: cuddly toys shaped into perverse positions to advertise the least cuddly, most wilfully perverse American movie for some time. And we don't just mean in a sexual sense. This is, after all, a film that offers no plot, no likeable characters and no respite from the snorting, fucking and posturing that make up Bret Easton Ellis' same-titled sophomore novel.

That's right - this is based on a book by the author of American Psycho. It goes something like this: Sean wants to bed Lauren who longs to screw Victor who was once shagging Paul who wants to nail Sean... It's set at the fictional Camden College, New England, and employs a bold non-structure - retained by the movie - that merely sees our beautiful protagonists trawl from party to party and meaningless conquest to meaningless conquest.

To some, it's a soulless, hollow and ultimately pointless exposé of disaffected preppies with more money than morals. To others, it's an incisive dissection of Reagan's narcissistic, nihilistic children. Writer/director Roger Avary's adaptation, faithful and fearless, won't change anyone's mind either way.

Take the decision to cast James Van Der Beek, aka Dawson, as Sean Bateman (American Psycho Patrick's brother). A clear indication we're in for a sanitised, Hollywoodised version, right? Wrong. Introduced with a straight-to-camera leer reminiscent of Malcolm McDowell's entrance in A Clockwork Orange, we immediately get to see The Walking Forehead humping (first his palm and then a blonde) and dumping (face screwed up as he strains on the throne). His subsequent boozing, spitting and nose-hoovering almost pass without notice. Other characters are similarly repugnant, Shannyn Sossamon's damaged Lauren offering the film's only hint of tenderness.

No doubt about it, Avary has moulded an impermeable movie that allows the viewer no easy way in. Yet whether you admire his refusal to dilute Ellis' text or simply bewail the lack of humanity, there's no faulting his attempt to translate breathless prose into cinematic language. Juddering between freeze frames, split screens, rewinds and, in one bravura sequence, speeded-up footage overlaid with a panting voiceover, Attraction assaults the senses. And no, it's not gimmicky for the sheer senseless hell of it - each disruptive jitter definitely adds to the dislocation of the characters.

Be brave and give it a go. Just be sure to take a deep breath before you enter the cinema.

It may lack the humour of Mary Harron's American Psycho adaptation, but this is a bold, uncompromising take on the author's (ill)-favoured world. Are you up to it?

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.