The film centers around a fucked-up love triangle between devil-in-the-flesh Sean Bateman (the Beek), the bewitching Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), and svelte pretty-boy Paul (Ian Somerhalder), who are all students at upper-crust Camden College, somewhere in New England. Love triangles are tricky things anyway, but throw in the influences of director Roger Avery (writer of Pulp Fiction) and novelist Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero, American Psycho), upon whose 1987 novel the film is based, and the triangle gets very messy indeed. We watch the characters fuck, drink, lust, puke, bleed, and do drugs. Which sounds like fun, right? And it might have been, but the satire gets lost in the glam. I was left either wanting a full-on fuck party or a requiem for college angst, but what you get is an uneven movie with good performances, a tacked-on '80s soundtrack, and a lot of blood and vomit.
Props must be given to the pretty, pretty cast of "fresh-faced" WB stars, like Van Der Beek (Dawson's Creek), Somerholder (American Embassy) and Jessica Biel (Seventh Heaven), who play their unsavory roles with a rowdiness that is fun to watch, but only in the context of their current careers as goody-goodies. The Beek explains, "[Previous to this role], I had felt like all my instincts were limited to 8 o'clock." With Sean, he was allowed to go anywhere and do anything, and he thinks the film is "raw and intense and truthful."
I felt it to be a bit of a cop-out--especially on the whole homo tip. I read entire articles about this supposedly huge gay scene between Sean and Paul, when in actuality it was a mere peck. No tongue. No groping. A peck--and a very unsexy peck at that. So why the fuck is Out magazine putting James Van Der Beek on the cover and dishing about a "controversial" gay kiss? Mr. VDB says that it's a "cheap story." I agree.
However, there is something different about Rules that sets it apart from the rest of the Pulp Fiction clones. The creation of Sean Bateman is a Faustian move. Sean wants to be a good man, but his fate has been set. His soul was sold when he was christened a Bateman. Like Ellis' other Bateman, Patrick (the psycho in American Psycho), Sean has no choice; he is evil, a product of his surroundings. James VDBeek elaborates, "Sean feels cursed he wants to find love, wants to be a part of it all, but is an emotional vampire and a predator." Poor Sean.