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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Spun

Starring: Jason Schwartzman, John Leguizamo
Director: Jonas Akerlund
Rated: R
RunTime: 101 Minutes
Release Date: March 2003
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Mena Suvari, Patrick Fugit, Brittany Murphy, Alexis Arquette, Deborah Harry, Eric Roberts

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie review

Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

Remember that line in Danny Boyle's "Trainspotting," the one that has one junkie give his view about drugs in general..."Think of the best orgasm you ever had and multiply that by 1000 and you'll get an idea of what heroin feels like." That may say something about the speaker's sex life but on the other hand could give conservatives across the ocean in the U.S. the idea that "Trainspotting" condones the use of hard drugs. A guy like William Bennett or Michael Medved might look at "Spun" in the same way: showing a group of druggies who look as though they came out of the seventies appearing to have a great ol' time while high on methamphetamine, going without sleep for three or four days (that is, "spun"). Ultimately, though, I think Jonas Akerlund wants us to feel sorry for these lads and lasses and, even more, get to like them in spite of their slacker (and worse) ways. If you can feel affection for one young man who ties a stripper to his bed, gags her and puts tape over her eyes and leaves her like that for three days, then director Akerlund has pulled off what he probably hopes to have done: to have us condemn the use of these vile substances while at the same time separating the doers from the deeds.

Akerlund, whose experience before making this first feature film has been in music videos, uses his background throughout, particularly in the many surreal sequences and in one gem of an animated scene that could have come out of Tom Tykwer's "Run Lola Run." He resorts freely to expressionistic views with which we're familiar from Darren Aronofsky's more disciplined and refined "Requiem for a Dream." Based in part on an actual adventure by scripter Will De Los Santos, the film centers on Santos's alter ego, Ross (Jason Schwartzman), a short, sometimes awkward guy who looks to score a stash and winds up in the proverbial roller-coaster ride of an adventure. Had he been able to get his amphetamine from his regualr dealer, we'd have no story. Instead, dealer Spider Mike (John Leguizamo), whose crib houses a bevy of the zonked out, including stripper Nikki (Brittany Murphy), his girl friend, Cookie (Mena Suvari) and a vid-game, pimply freak, Frisbee (Patrick Fugit), has lost his stash. In return for free dope Ross agrees to chauffeur Cook (the aptly named Mickey Rourke) on some rounds as Cook digs up ingredients to prepare his crystal.

Road-tripping about, Ross and Cook run into a bunch of John Waters-like characters, none of whom could be called normal, including a couple of weird Latina clerks in a convenience store, a queen (Eric Roberts), a couple of cops out to pin the drug rap on the paranoid Spider Mike (Peter Stormare, Alexis Arquette) and assorted lesbians, a bully and the one normal person in the movie, Ross's former girl friend Amy (Charlotte Ayana).

The downside of the venture is its repetitiveness. Akerlund cannot compensate adequately by his assortment of MTV-like animations and surreal visions. Though "Spun" could not be called a narrative but is more of a one-damned-thing-after-another, the movie scores for originality, the zest of the performers, and a nose-thumb at Puritan America, in particular the MPAA who would undoubtedly slap the Blockbuster-busting NC-17 rating on the project.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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