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Spun
2003 - unrated - 101 Mins.
Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Producer: Chris Hanley, Timothy Wayne Peternel, Fernando Sulichin and Danny Vinik
Written By: Will De Los Santos and Creighton Vero
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy, John Leguizamo and Patrick Fugit
Review by: Bill King
   
"Spun" looks like a serious project that went terribly wrong. While I'm sure the intentions of the filmmakers were admirable, I can't help but wonder why they couldn't look at their finished project and realize they screwed it up. Judging by the inexperience behind the camera (the writers and director have few credits), I have to assume that they were too thrilled at making a big movie like this to see their shortcomings.

Jason Schwartzman, formerly seen as a clean-cut prep student in "Rushmore," stars as a drugged-out methamphetamine abuser named Ross who spends his days getting high, and not much else. His supplier is Spider Mike (John Leguizamo), whose house looks like a war zone. Spider invites all sorts of weird types into his domain. His girlfriend is Cookie (Mena Suvari), who is just as addicted as Ross. Frisbee (Patrick Fugit) is a slacker buddy who plays video games that more or less take place in his mind. There is also Nikki (Brittany Murphy), who is dating the Cook (Mickey Rourke), the maker of their favorite drug. The movie focuses on this circle of characters, while occasionally inviting others into it.

Ross's main purpose in life, it would seem, is to provide transportation for the Cook, who's apparently too cheap to buy his own car. In a running gag, Ross leaves a stripper whom he picked up at a bar handcuffed in his apartment so that she'll be there when he returns. When two cops (Peter Stormare and Alexis Arquette) stumble onto Frisbee, they convince him to wear a wire so that they can bust Spider and get themselves on television.

The movie's visual style is impressive. Director Jonas Åkerlund uses wild editing, quick cuts, animation, close-ups, sound effects and overacting to create a surreal atmosphere that represents the warped minds of his characters. Therein lies the problem. "Spun" is so concerned with its hip look and its frantic narrative that the drug abuse depicted here looks harmless. Sure, the characters live in run-down houses, are unshaven, are morally corrupt, but where's the physical harm that drugs can cause?

The movie does illustrate the endless loop that these people are in, but when someone shoots up, he just acts funny. We don't see the pain, or anything else that suggests a deadly habit. The movie sort of cops out in the end. Certain characters are imprisoned for their actions, but this all comes after the movie's nearly endless scenes of drug use and immoral behavior without an undercurrent of danger. The movie has too much fun with its material, then tries to get off the hook by having the cops arrest everyone. It's too late for that.

It's obvious to anyone who has seen "Requiem for a Dream" (2000) that "Spun" is going for the same effect. In fact, Åkerlund takes the same editing style from "Requiem," including split-screens, and quadruples the usage here. The close-ups of eyeballs in particular are a dead giveaway. Sorry Åkerlund , but Darren Aronofsky got there first. "Requiem for a Dream" is a much superior drug movie, because it not only gets us inside the minds of the characters, but shows them dramatically weakened and devastated by their abuse. "Trainspotting" (1996) is another drug movie that reveals the self-destructive nature of drugs, while still maintaining a fast-paced style for humorous and revealing moments. "Spun" wants us to see Ross and his friends use drugs and act foolish, but stops there.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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