A Review of Spun

Films about drugs may be the hardest thing to make. No matter what you say about them, you will get yourself into trouble.

Why? Because drug use (any substance abuse, really) is inherently unpleasant to look at. Making a film about being stoned, therefore, has to be as well if it is going to capture the experience. It is easy to admire the skill it takes to make them. But they are not very fun to sit through.

And that’s the big thing about Spun that I liked -it at least gave the illusion of fun in it. The characters are so bizarre and over the top that at times it almost comes across as unintentional comedy. Now, normally that doom a film. But here it is almost welcome. I was at least enjoying myself as I knew I watching something trying so hard to be Requiem for a Dream.
The film is basically a slice of life film, which tells the story of junkies as they live their lives. They include Ross (Jason Schwartzmann), his drug dealer Spider Mike (John Leguizamo), the creator of the drug simply called The Cook (Mickey Rourke), his girlfriend Nikki (Brittany Murphy), and a police officer trying to take the whole thing down (Peter Stormare).

Now, I admire every single technical aspect of the film. It is well acted (Murphy gives one of her best performances in her two short career) well edited, well directed (Jonas Akerlund has directed several of Lady Gaga’s music videos. He knows how to put together a spectacle) and well crafted. If you are a fan of this sort of thing, you will like this film.

But…like I said, depicting drug abuse is going to be very bad to watch. The film captures it succinctly, which is admirable, but…it is still difficult to watch.

Oh, it is more subtle than the sea of depression and angst that is Requiem for a Dream (a film that Spun keeps trying to ape). And, like I said, it at least is fun. Some of the set pieces and names remind me of Reefer Madness. It ends up being inherently funny embraces the cliches of the genre rather than trying to transcend them. Did I mention the names above? They act the way you would expect them to react. If the film had repackaged itself as a send off to the drug induced nightmares that played at the grindhouses in the seventies, the film would be some sort of cult classic.
But it does act like it has something it wants to say. The characters all look wasted and withered (rather than the usual appealing) and can never seem to complete a thought. Plus, the ending…well I won’t say, but the idea is not romantic and is meant to be as heavy handed as Requiem for a Dream. You know, about how drugs are evil, drugs will ruin your life, and the like. I am not saying that this is a bad message. What I am saying is that it has been done before.

It’s a shame -it already is doing everything right. It has its own style, why did it feel the need to steal from the competition? It’s a bad thing when a movie does that. But, ultimately, Spun is still well put together for what it is. See it at least for the Rourke and Murphy performances.

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