“I don’t want to be arrogant, but I’m an incredibly attractive man,” narrates Ashton Kutcher as his feckless manwhore Nikki saunters out of the latest LA ‘spread’ to have temporarily housed this homeless lothario. “I can’t help it; I don’t try to be. I just am.”
An American Gigolo for the nihilist noughties (you remember them, right?), his high-end hustler lives by seducing the willing, wealthy likes of Samantha (Anne Heche), then shacking up in their opulent digs until he wears out his welcome by throwing one party too many. But when he does, it’s no big deal.
Thirty thousand odd of his amoral sort may apparently arrive in Los Angeles every month, but there are more than enough rich women to go around for those happy to sell their soul for a nice view and some designer threads.
A spiritual cousin to Ewan McGregor’s custard-fucking drifter in Young Adam, Nikki sails through the first half of David Mackenzie’s US follow-up (by way of Asylum and Hallam Foe) like a latter-day version of the skirt-chasing crimper Warren Beatty played in Shampoo.
Alas, around the midway point – when he falls for his female counterpart Heather (Margarita Levieva) – Spread has a failure of nerve, replacing its earlier guilty pleasure in Kutcher’s opportunism with a sanctimonious zeal that requires he pay for his temerity.
In short order he’s turfed out on his ear, spurned by his only friend and forced to resort to prostituting himself on the streets like Jon Voight’s Midnight Cowboy. God, even Deuce Bigalow didn’t have it this bad. G
iven America’s contradictory attitudes towards sex, it’s no surprise to see Nikki’s fortunes reversed. For a while at least, Spread seems headed in a daring direction, a tougher, harder place more suited to Heche’s shrewd, flinty attorney – a woman ready to have her vagina tightened up if it will prolong her desirability – than to Kutcher’s upstart with a heart.
But ultimately, good old-fashioned morals stifle the story.
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Surprisingly believable as a preening hotshot – who’d have thought it? – Ashton Kutcher is ultimately undone by a disappointingly moralistic script that can’t quite allow his easy-cum, easy-go hedonist to go unpunished