The Butterfly Effect (2004)

(In theaters, February 2004) Surprise surprise: In the rush to dismiss The Butterfly Effect as yet another career move by it-boy Ashton Kutcher, most seems to have missed the fact that this is, in fact, quite a good film. It doesn’t take a long time to realize that this is a lot darker than anyone could guess. Within the first few unnerving minutes, child abuse, murder, rape, suicide and supernatural creeps are all trotted out in horror-film fashion. It’s not pretty nor engaging, but it works; soon enough, the film presents the usual time-travel premise in a fairly original manner. But what the rather clever script does with it is progressively darker, with scant relief. Now, before anyone gets too enthusiastic, it’s worth pointing out that the film makes less and less sense the closer you peer at it: The time-travel mechanism evolves in pure wishful thinking, while the time-travel paradoxes get more obvious as multiple time-lines are spun. (The protagonist’s motivations are also suspect, but at least the other characters have the guts to call him on it) Still, there’s no denying that the film works rather well on its own as a B-grade supernatural thriller in the Final Destination vein. Kutcher himself does a good job, even though the supporting actors all steal the show as they have to incarnate vastly different versions of themselves. Often uncomfortable but seldom less than intriguing, The Butterfly Effect achieves what it sets out to do. Heck, it even pays appropriate to Ray Bradbury in a split-second visual gag.

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