spun (2003)


director: jonas akerlund

jason schwartzman, brittany burphy, mickey rourke

Thereís something condescending about the humour of a film like Jonas Akerlundís Spun, which mines its comedy from the miserable but adrenalized world of the speed freak, among people whose expiry date gets closer with every snort or shot.

The only audience who might be able to respond with fond, sympathetic laughter are fellow or former tweakers, but you have to assume this audience is fairly small. For everyone else, Spun is like Trainspotting without a narrator who wants to escape his world, or a single moment when drugs donít set the tone. Certainly, Akerlund does everything he can to draw you into that world, cutting the film with jabbing close-ups, jittery, abrupt jerks and speedy lunges, compressing a three-day speed binge quite effortlessly into just over an hour and half.

The cast also helps; Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) plays a college drop-out coping with the loss of a girlfriend and any direction in life with the top-notch crank being cooked up by The Cook, a charismatic street chemist played by Mickey Rourke. Both Schwartzman and Rourke are distressingly bulked-up, Schwartzman hiding behind a lank fringe of hair, Rourke outrageously clad in white leather and lethal-looking cowboy boots. Rourke turns in a remarkable performance for which, his infamous recent history considered, he has paid considerable dues researching.

The younger man ends up working as The Cookís driver, ferrying around his stripper girlfriend (Brittany Murphy) and trying to avoid a pair of crankhead reality-show cops as they cannibalize their little circle of speed freaks for onscreen busts. This is as much plot as the film demands, relying instead on the outlandish caricatures provided by actors like Mena Suvari, John Leguiziamo, Patrick Fugit and Eric Roberts, as well as cameos by Debbie Harry, former Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, and soundtrack composer Billy Corgan.

The film doesnít have much to say about the world of the speed freak, mostly since it had no intention of judging it, a curious and amoral stance that lets the filmmakers off the hook for anything like real drama. It has considerable energy, however, and a palpable joy as it goes about depicting the world of tweakers, whose drug of choice provides a brief, manic rush and demands a powerful, usually lethal comedown.