An entertaining but hideous romp on the circus side of crystal meth addiction, "Spun" wants to be another "Trainspotting" and/or "Requiem for a Dream." Inundated with trip-cam trickery that keeps the audience riding the ups and downs of the main character's drug buzzes, the film is nothing if not stylish, but falls short for lack of depth.
Music video guru and first-time feature director Jonas Akerlund makes liberal use of the disorienting, grainy, washed-out look of bleach-bypass photography. When Ross -- a downward-spiraling college dropout (played by Jason Schwartzman of "Rushmore" fame) on the leading edge of addiction but still clinging to his letter-jacket memories -- takes a hit of speed, the movie's tempo is fed a brief burst of shaky acceleration. A rapid montage of sensory-assault, nervous-tension images dance across the screen, sometimes in the form of cinematic hyper-awareness (e.g., fish-eye lens ultra-close-ups of chapped lips, bloodshot eyes and nervous-ticking fingers), sometimes in the form of animated, soddenly pornographic hallucinations.
The world of "Spun" is an acutely realized day-lit underground of ghetto shacks and combustible meth labs in cheap, airless hotel rooms (greatly enhanced by a hip-trippy score from the Smashing Pumpkin's Billy Corgan) in which all the characters seem acquiescently ensnared.
Relatively new to this world and strapped for drug money, Ross becomes a courier for a meth-maker called The Cook (pitch-perfect Mickey Rourke taking full advantage of his menacing, ridden-hard-and-put-away-wet image). He drops off drugs and chauffeurs the guy's bubbly stripper girlfriend (Brittany Murphy, "8 Mile") in his rattletrap jalopy of a dying, rusty Volvo in exchange for free junk.
But while its crafty (if derivative) style is effectively, often entertainingly transporting, "Spun" is too weightless and superficial to measure up against the films it apes.
Few consequences of drug addiction or criminal behavior are portrayed short of Ross being busted by cartoonishly overzealous cops (Peter Stormare and Alexis Arquette) with addictions of their own -- one of whom lays his mugging on so thick he ruins every scene he's in. Purely for shock value Akerlund relishes in TMI (too much information) incidental storytelling -- "Spun" wouldn't have suffered any without the scene of John Leguizamo (as Schwartzman's volatile, paranoid dealer) masturbating or the punchline close-up of an unflushed toilet bowl. And sans such moments, the picture's protracted, post-climax chapter would have come a littler sooner and might not have felt like waiting for the other shoe to drop (a feeling that is never satisfied).
"Spun" has a cool cast of hopped-up cats with crazy nicknames (Spider Mike, Cookie, Frisbee) well-played by the likes of Leguizamo, Mena Suvari ("American Beauty") as Leguizamo's badly strung-out girlfriend, and Patrick Fugit ("Almost Famous") as a pimple-encrusted teenage hanger-on at least as addicted to video games as he is to drugs. And Schwartzman's off-kilter hyperactivity is perfect for his starring role as an on-edge tweaker seeking chemical escape.
If only Akerlund weren't so unabashedly self-aware and so casually flippant about his subject matter, "Spun" could have had some meaning beyond just being a clowning, three-ring drug trip for the terminally hip but lucid.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Friday 7th February 2003
Box Office USA: $0.2M
Distributed by: Newmarket Films
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 37%
Fresh: 29 Rotten: 50
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Jonas Akerlund
Starring: Jason Schwartzman as Ross, Mickey Rourke as The Cook, Brittany Murphy as Nikki, John Leguizamo as Spider Mike, Chloe Hunter as April Love, Patrick Fugit as Frisbee, Mena Suvari as Cookie, Eric Roberts as The Man, Elisa Bocanegra as Giggles, China Chow as Escort, Nicholas Gonzalez as Angel, Charlotte Ayanna as Amy, Josh Peck as Fat Boy
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