Thursday, April 17, 2003

Cooking the books

Movie: Spun

Posted on Thu, Apr 17, 2003 at 4:00 AM

Our Rating: 1.50

Music-video directors live and die by their "books" -- collections of other people's artwork, images and ideas that they pilfer, recombine and (when a clip's a hit) tend to call their own. So a vital part of the scant enjoyment offered by Jonas Akerlund's plotless feature-length speed-fiend ramble "Spun" is essentially a game of spotting the cop. The morbidly obese trailer-park white trash and pink flamingos are straight out of "Pink Flamingos," and the spazz edits and eye-pop shoot-up tricks are courtesy of "Requiem for a Dream." (Actually, there's a whole heap of Darren Aronofsky's last movie in this film.) And don't forget Eric Roberts (as a boy-loving queen) and Mickey Rourke (as a methedrine chemist called the Cook), together for the first time since 1984's "The Pope of Greenwich Village."

Shot in a grainy, color-drained manner similar to that other exemplar of indie filmmaking -- "Minority Report" -- "Spun" features Jason Schwartzman as a guy who does speed, handcuffs his stripper girlfriend and runs errands for the Cook, whose ex-stripper girlfriend, Nikki (Brittany Murphy), is a speed freak. Other people in the film who do speed but who are not strippers include Spider Mike (John Leguizamo), a scumbag dealer, and Cookie (Mena Suvari), a cranked nuisance battling constipation.

As a music-video director who has churned out spots for Madonna and the Prodigy, Akerlund knows a lot of rock stars in various stages of decline. So sparking additional passing interest are cameos by Judas Priest's Rob Halford (a leatherman porn dealer) and Deborah Harry (a dyke phone-sex worker still -- oh, the hilarity -- "Hanging on the Telephone"), plus an entire soundtrack of soulful acoustic numbers by ex-Smashing Pumpkins castrato Billy Corgan. But after the star recognition and freak-show appeal of a post-plastic surgery/sanity Rourke fades, "Spun" has little else to offer, aside from making the viewer semi-recant the lousy things he or she might have said about ("Gummo" and "Julien-Donkey Boy" filmmaker) Harmony Korine -- another, uh, influence here.

The film also includes mediocre animations (a must in these "24 Hour Party People" days) of crucifixions, strippers, vaginas, etc. Just as watching a person slowly popping a zit wouldn't be entirely uninteresting, "Spun" isn't without a certain noxious fascination. But it's really about nothing more than Akerlund's overaccessed book and his self-perceived hipness as a cool-ass reporter of a U.S. drug world that exists only in really bad films.


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