It’s easy to see what music video director Jonas Akerlund was after in “Spun,” the story of a bunch of crystal meth addicts, suppliers and hangers-on: a spaced-out, visually overwhelming assault on the senses in the spirit of “Trainspotting” or “Requiem for a Dream.” And certainly Akerlund has style to burn. Indeed, his movie amounts to sensory overkill: beside this flick even last year’s hyper-kinetic “Rules of Attraction” looks positively sedate (and, despite its ugliness, relatively pleasant to the eye). Even if you admire the flamboyant technique, however, eventually it loses whatever punch it might first have had and grows simply exhausting. When a filmmaker feels it necessary to portray virtually every scene of a person’s simply starting a car by showing us not only a closeup of the key being turned in the ignition but another of the engine revving up under the hood, for example, it’s fair to conclude that he’s lost his way in the search for pizzazz.
It’s more difficult to discern the dramatic point behind all the in-your-face technique. Maybe the flick is just supposed to be some sort of wild-eyed celebration of the culture of crank–in which case it’s disgustingly irresponsible as well as unpleasant. More likely it will be portrayed instead as a cautionary tale; but if so it’s an abject failure, since the only thing it successfully cautions one against is watching it in the first place. Certainly Akerlund hasn’t spent any time helping the actors he’s somehow dragooned into appearing in the picture develop any sense of character or endow their parts with even the faintest trace of sympathy. There’s Jason Schwartzman as an addled, sad-sack addict named Ross (shot all too often in extremely unflattering, fish-eye closeups), and John Leguizamo as his manic supplier Spider Mike (who has to enact what is surely one of the most grotesque scenes of thespian self-debasement in the history of cinema), and Mena Suvari as Mike’s spaced-out girlfriend (whom we watch taking a prolonged bathroom break at one point in the proceedings–to her embarrassment no less than ours). There’s Mickey Rourke, strutting about, smiling lasciviously and spouting a stream of obscenities as the cowboy who cooks up the pharmaceuticals, and Bittany Murphy as his wacko squeeze (the only character who supposedly finds some kind of redemption). There’s Patrick Fugit (once again, photographed in brutally unflattering closeup) as Frisbee, a particularly nervous and klutzy addict compelled by a couple of crooked cops (the frenetic Peter Stormare and Alexis Arquette) to rat on Mike, with results that are unpleasant for him (and even more so for us). And as if all these low-lifes weren’t enough, there’s Deborah Harry as a bellicose lesbian who rescues an unfortunate stripper (Chloe Hunter) whom Ross unaccountably leaves handcuffed to his bed, naked, for hours on end (another lovely scene), and–as a topper, presumably–Eric Roberts, affecting a hideously prissy manner as The Cook’s bankroller (we see him lolling in bed attended by two compliant young men in shorts). There’s not a single appealing quality in any of these characters, nor anything but desperation in the actors’ performances; and what little plot there is, amounts to just a chain of coincidences and various forms of violence and self-destruction. The result is that “Spun” is a loathsome film about loathsome people, and after spending an hour and a half with them you’re likely to feel in immediate need of a shower. In departing the auditorium you might also feel compelled to recommend to the management that the theatre be fumigated, too.
Drugs may be bad, but this movie is worse. Do yourself a favor and just say no.