Eric D. Snider

Spun

If "Spun" has a point -- and I am not entirely certain it does -- it is that doing meth totally screws you up. I don't dispute this, and it's a point worth making. The trouble is, "Spun" seems more intent on giving us a day-in-the-life presentation of some speed freaks and their wacky hijinks than actually telling us anything about them. The characters are ciphers, and their actions are meaningless. This planet has atmosphere, but no life.

Jason Schwartzman, miles from "Rushmore," plays Ross, a junkie whose dealer, Spider Mike (John Leguizamo), loses his goods, possibly when they fell out of his pocket on the way to the liquor store. (Such are the occupational hazards of speed dealers.) One of Mike's other customers, Nikki (Brittany Murphy), suggests she and Ross go right to the source: the Cook (Mickey Rourke), who makes the meth in a motel room.

Soon Ross is Cook's chauffeur, delivery boy and gofer, working in exchange for free fixes. His life didn't have much to it before -- mostly ducking calls from someone named Amy, who wants the money she lent him, and hanging out at strip clubs -- but now it's fully occupied by his duties for Cook. He even neglects the stripper he has tied to his bed, for a rather long period of time.

Why does he tie her to the bed? And why doesn't he untie her and let her leave before he goes to work? Because he's on speed, man! I guess that's why, anyway; the movie presents it with a rather whimsical attitude, despite the horror of it, and gives no explanations or excuses.

The film also is mum on why we have to see Mena Suvari, who plays Mike's hygienically challenged girlfriend, sit on the toilet, and why there is even an inside-the-pot view of her doings. And why must Mike call a phone sex line, and why must we watch what ensues on his end of the phone call?

Is it all because drugs degrade you and make you awful? Fair enough. But a movie this tongue-in-cheek can't turn around and expect us to take its wallowing in filth to mean it's a cautionary tale. At least "Requiem for a Dream," which this film was obviously inspired by, had the good sense to take drugs seriously.

There is also a subplot with yet another of Mike's customers, Frisbee (Patrick Fugit), who gets busted by two cops (Peter Stormare and Alexis Arquette) and has to help them put a sting on Mike. These cops are part of a "Cops"-style TV show, and the performances by Stormare and Arquette are embarrassingly over-the-top. They comprise the only part of the film that I think was made while the filmmakers were actually on drugs, though it seems more like marijuana than speed.

If you see "Spun," you will not be surprised to learn that its director and editor, Jonas Akerlund, is a music-video veteran. He employs that choppy style that often complements a film's content by making the viewer feel the way the characters do. Here, though, it only serves to remind us that we have no idea how the characters are feeling, because they don't even seem like real people.

The writers, Will De Los Santos and Creighton Vero, claim to have based the film on their own experiences with meth cooks and addicts in Oregon. They have probably captured the EVENTS with accuracy. But they have failed to capture the PEOPLE involved. We don't care about any of them, and by the time their lives are being resolved, or screwed up for good, we're just bored.

Grade: D+

Rated R, (rating surrendered; released "unrated"), abundant harsh profanity, a lot of nudity, some very strong sexuality, a little strong violence, tons of drug use

1 hr., 41 min.

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