Less than two months ago David Mackenzie‘s Spread, a moralistic drama in the vein of Shampoo and American Gigolo about a young Los Angeles poon-hound (Ashton Kutcher) boning his way through a stunningly vapid life, opened and quickly died. It was guillotined by critics (earning a ruinous 14% Rotten Tomatoes rating) and had only made a lousy $249,590 by 9.6.09.

But I saw it on a screener last night, and to my surprise didn’t have that many problems with it. It’s too formulaic by half, but it struck me as an honest and fairly ballsy look at a certain strata of Los Angeles culture — every scene felt straight and candid and well-rounded — and Kutcher gives a fully inhabited, honestly shallow ace-level performance — equal in my mind to Warren Beatty‘s in Shampoo or Richard Gere‘s in American Gigolo — as a guy who finally starts to wake up to the life-is-hard-and-short aspect of things in Act Three.

And Jason Hall‘s screenplay is tart and clean and to the point, and Steven Poster‘s cinematography is luscious and beautifully framed at every turn. Spread didn’t deserve to die in is crib. It’s nothing to write home about, but any movie that has a narrator referring to “six foot tall women who weight 98 pounds” can’t be all bad. it’s a better-than-half-decent film, and certainly worth a rental.

I’d write more but I have to be at an 11 am screening.