2002, NR, 101 min. Directed by Jonas Åkerlund. Starring Jason Schwartzman, John Leguizamo, Mena Suvari, Patrick Fugit, Brittany Murphy, Mickey Rourke, Peter Stormare, Alexis Arquette, Chloe Hunter, Eric Roberts.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 4, 2003
Drive. Wait. Score. Pop. Repeat. Being a speed freak is hard work. Repetitive and endless and tiring. And funny? Spun takes everything about this extreme state of being, cranks it into overdrive, and lets the pieces fall where they may. In addition to director Åkerlund's creative nerve and a zesty score by Billy Corgan, Spun also features the adrenalized dramatic stylings of an oddball group of actors. The movie has few ambitions beyond its spot-on depiction of crystal meth freaks on a loooong run. There’s not much in the way of narrative drive … the movie is propelled mostly by the tweakers’ constant need to score more crank. But the dank odor of speed oozing out of these characters’ pores can practically be detected from the back row. Director Åkerlund makes a flashy debut here as a feature-film director, building on his established reputation as one of the top directors of music videos. Also listed as one of the film’s two editors, Åkerlund delights in little montages of the speed rush, emphasizing mechanical engines, brake parts, and various pieces of flotsam. The characters are also a part of the film’s stylistic milieu: What they lack in rounded personalities they make up for in outsized costumes and behavior. There’s Ross (Schwartzman), the man with the wheels, who goes back and forth, back and forth, from his apartment to the Cook’s makeshift lab in a seedy motel. Rourke, in one of the most over-the-top roles of his career, plays the Cook, a porn-loving sleazebag who possesses an ever-marketable skill. Living with him is Nikki (Murphy), a dingy and totally buzzed trash coquette (and anyone who caught Murphy’s scattered performance as a presenter at last month’s Independent Spirit Awards will wonder where Murphy’s line between fiction and reality is drawn). Leguizamo plays Spider Mike, a dealer who also happens to be his own best customer, and American Beauty Suvari plays his live-in girlfriend Cookie. Fugit, from Almost Famous, plays a pimple-faced kid, while gorgeous Deborah Harry plays the nosy butch next door. The strangest character, of course, is played by Eric Roberts, whose two flabbergasting scenes are saved for the end. Among it all lies a naked woman tied up for days, Spider Mike masturbating into a sock while Cookie takes a long overdue dump, a green dog named Taco, the Cook’s barnstorming "ode to the pussy," and many, many more twisted and aberrant sights. The movie is both harrowing and funny, but I’m not sure the filmmakers would agree with everyone about which scenes are which.