Directed by Jonas Ackerlund
Written by Will De Los Santos and Creighton Vero.
Spun opens with the message "Based on the Truth... And Lies." The same thing should be said whenever any of the media address the topic of methamphetamine, whether it is in a feature movie, a documentary, a news report, or a pamphlet. But in all of those, it is the lies that usually predominate. In Spun you will see exaggeration aplenty but none so gross as those you are likely see on the evening news or in the pages of your local newspaper. The characters and some of the situations may be extreme but they are extremes you might actually run into if were foolish enough to spend a few days hanging out with a bunch of meth freaks.
The film begins with Ross, a recent college dropout and loser in the game of love (portrayed by Jason Schwartzman), in search of some meth. The film perfectly portrays a tweaker desperately in need of some speed and introduces in quick succession most of the other major characters. Ross goes to the home of meth dealer, Spider Mike (John Leguizamo) and his girlfriend Cookie (Mena Suvari), where he also meets Frisbee (Patrick Fugit), a young man who seems to be at least as addicted to videogames as he is to methamphetamine, and the beautiful but air-headed stripper Nikki (Brittany Murphy).
Ross gives Nikki a ride home to the motel where she lives with her boyfriend, the "chemist" who makes the meth Spider Mike sells. There, Ross meets her boyfriend, "The Cook" -- a brilliant over the top performance by Mickey Rourke. He subsequently becomes the Cook's gopher and chauffeur for Nikki. The movie's wild humor is helped along by an assortment of other characters, including a green dog and a pair of narcs out of some hybrid of reality TV cop show and a Leslie Neilsen movie. If you have never known a bunch of meth tweakers this film is a fun way to learn what they are like without risking having your stereo stolen or facing arrest as an accessory. If you have, then the characters will seem hilariously familiar.
Ross is an amiable enough character and you will probably find yourself liking and perhaps identifying with him as the one essentially normal character in a cast of strange characters. All this changes a bit, however, when you learn about the girl who is handcuffed naked to his bed. It isn't just the fact that he is into kinky sex, after all, she is apparently a willing and satisfied participant. But when the Cook calls to ask him to run an errand, he goes off and leaves her handcuffed to the bed, stifling her protests with duct tape and a skipping CD of heavy metal music. On top of that, he forgets about her. She remains trapped through most of the movie, only finally being freed by Ross' nosey, lesbian neighbor. Jason Schwartzman still manages to make Ross seem somehow likable even after this, but he no longer seems so innocent and normal as he did before.
As Spun progresses, the camera movement and pace of the movie perfectly matches Ross' drug experience . Once Ross gets his fix of meth from Spider Mike, the film, that has so perfectly matched the jagged, edgy feel of the tweaker in need, following a brief bit of jerky acceleration, reflects his feeling of being in control once again. But it isn't long before he begins to jones for more, and once again the movie starts to get increasingly jumpy, only to go through the same cycle over and over again -- perfectly mimicking the life of the chronic stimulant abuser.
Spun is not your typical phony anti-drug movie, peppered with lots of little anti-drug messages and with a plotline that builds toward an inevitable disaster that will epitomize the message, "drugs kill" -- or at least the one's the politicians disapprove of do. There is more than one potential disaster lurking in the background, but as is more often true than not, the characters all manage to stumble through the figurative minefield they live in without blowing up anything but a few motel rooms.
Spun is certainly no advertisement for the tweaker lifestyle. It doesn't convey the message, "drugs are cool" or "meth is fun". But it doesn't try to preach any homily or to illustrate any moral. Instead it takes more of an honest documentarian's approach in simply "telling it like it is". Of course, it also manages to be very funny while doing so.
Spun is the first feature film by controversial music video director Jason Ackerlund and one can see much of the music video style in it. But one can also see great potential in a director who can make you laugh out loud at material that is in many ways quite tragic and can make you feel for his essentially unlovely characters in spite of themselves. The film is also greatly enhanced by an excellent musical score by Billy Corgan, formerly of Smashing Pumpkins, and also a first-timer at movie making who shows great potential.
Your own taste will dictate whether you consider Spun to be edgy and hilarious, shocking and pointless, or pornographic and disgusting. But you certainly won't find it boring.