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  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
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Cruel Intentions 2

Original Film/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 84 mins . MA15+ . PAL


While it was hardly defensible as high art, writer/director Roger Kumble’s 1999 teen potboiler Cruel Intentions made for decent, brain-free viewing. Stealing its plot wholesale from the often-mined Les Liaisons Dangereuses, its strength was in its winningly bitchy lead performances, particularly those of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe. That film was a big enough hit to encourage Kumble and producer Neal Moritz to develop a TV series with many of the same characters. A pilot episode of the series - titled Manchester Prep - was shot, but the series never made it to full production. Moritz and Kumble bravely resurrected their failed pilot, did some quick fixes and sent it out into the world as Cruel Intentions 2, the idea being that it’s a “prequel” to the feature film with which it shares its title. Its mission: to make money. A perfectly appropriate goal, too, given the shameless nature of its characters.

The plot - what little there is - is bizarre. Sebastian Valmont (played here by Robin Dunne, looking like a cross between Pacey from Dawson’s Creek and a post-rehab Charlie Sheen) transfers to a posh New York school following his mother’s hospitalisation. Apparently quite the prankster at his old school, he forges a perfect record for his new headmaster and sets about trying to lead a more honest life. But stepsister Kathryn (Amy Adams) is the resident bitch in a disturbed semi-family that also includes Sebastian’s philandering father and status-obsessed mother (played with clearly apparent boredom by Mimi Rogers). Sebastian may be falling in love with the headmaster’s daughter Danielle (Sarah Thompson) but he’s going to have to work hard to stop from falling back into his old ways, whatever they may be (we’re never really given much idea).

If the whole thing comes across as an incoherent mess, it’s not at all surprising. A fair bit of additional work has been done to turn this from TV show into “movie”, employing tactics from changing character names (obviously dubbed in later) and a bit of judicious editing, to actually shooting new footage to both cover plot holes and to add a bit of teen erotica to the mix. The new footage is very obvious - it’s lit differently, is noticeably grainier and the cast have slightly different hairstyles! But the target audience probably won’t care when it means they score a completely irrelevant scene of two naked lesbian girls rubbing their breasts together under the shower.

As a result of this reworking, characters become hopelessly muddled - in particular Danielle, who goes through a sudden personality change every time we cut to new footage. This is done to serve the ending Kumble has created, but comes across as completely ludicrous on screen. One moment Danielle is the sweet innocent, the next she’s groping Sebastian’s trousers in a panting frenzy. And then - in the same scene - she reverts to her previous personality.

Plot elements are constantly introduced only to be left hanging, and some of the dialogue - particularly the added “raunchy” dialogue - is laughable. There are more pussy jokes than a whole season of Are You Being Served, and primary-school double entendre abounds. Then there’s this howler, from the inevitable incestuous sex scene:

Sebastian: “Is there any line you won’t cross?”

Kathryn: “Only one. Never in the butt.”

Err, alrighty then.

While ostensibly connected to Cruel Intentions, the only real connection here is in the character names. While it will work fine for the undemanding as no-brainer entertainment, it’s a “film” that’s impossible to watch without laughing. And it’s not a comedy. As Sebastian says at one point, “we sound like a cancelled TV series.” At least Kumble believes in truth in advertising.


Not surprisingly, the video transfer here is, for the most part, clean and bright, as befits material destined for TV viewing. Presented at 1.78:1 and 16:9 enhanced, the fairly no-frills photography comes up well on DVD, with warmly saturated colours and razor-sharp clarity. The only exception to this comes with the added footage, which is far less colour-saturated and notably more grainy; the rendered-on-video end credit scroll, too, looks sub-standard. Generally, though, this is a fine transfer - certainly better than the content deserves - that also has no evident compression problems whatsoever.


Once again, we’re in TV territory here, the audio crisp and clear without ever rising to any serious sonic challenges (most of the dialogue here was looped in post-production, and needless to say, the dialogue has the studio ring of confidence). It’s a dialogue-heavy effort, and as a result the only real audio fireworks come from the various pop songs inserted throughout. The surrounds are used sparingly for ambient sounds and reverb.

A Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it’s encoded at the higher bitrate of 448Kbit/sec, which again is probably more quality than the content deserves.


Aside from three quick “talent profiles” on the lead actors (favourite revelation: that Amy Adams is a “Hooters alumnus”!) there’s only a trailer here to amuse fans of the film (there are fans of this film, right?). This trailer is obviously a promo for the TV series with the new title stapled on the end - much of the footage here is not seen at all in the actual feature, and a close look at this trailer also reveals the originally-intended plot developments, substantially different from those in the reworked version, right down to the characters’ alliances. Given all that, it’s surprising Kumble allowed this on the disc at all.

Video quality, in non-enhanced full frame, is fine.


If you’re a fan of the original Cruel Intentions, you’ll probably find it hard to resist the temptation to buy this and see what it’s all about. But in all honesty, you’d be far better off saving the money and re-watching the original - Cruel Intentions 2 screams shoddiness, from the lacklustre acting to the desperately retooled script, and while it makes for a good rental quickie (excluding end credits, there’s only 80 minutes of actual plot here), the people that’ll enjoy this the most will be those playing spot-the-edit (a clue: any scene containing nudity or sex play is a late addition - and speaking of which, just how this tame teen soft porn soap scored an MA rating from the Australian censors is a mystery that will probably never be solved). Ultimately, the only cruel intentions apparent here are those of the production team, who obviously think their audience are easily fooled.

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      And I quote...
    "...a film that’s impossible to watch without laughing. And it’s not a comedy. "
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
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    • Video Cables:
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