More noise than signal

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

Ross (Jason Schwartzman) swings by his dealers gaff for the weekly crystal meth shop. While Spider Mike (John Leguizamo) tries to figure out what he’s done with his supply Ross chats with video game playing wastrel Frisbee (Patrick Fugit), Mike’s bird Cookie (Mena Suvari) and Nikki (Brittany Murphy), who is happily shacked up with The Cook (Mickey Rourke). The Cook, as his name suggests is responsible for the creation of all this speed the gang are eagerly stuffing up their nostrils.

After a period of Spider Mike flailing around he admits he’s lost the gear somewhere, but Nikki rides to Ross’ rescue by introducing him to The Cook, who not only hooks him up with some of the precious white stuff but offers him a job as his driver and general errand boy. While Ross is eager to please it soon interferes with his relationship with stripper April (Chloe Hunter), especially when he leaves her handcuffed to his bed for a few days. After a short period of ingredient collection The Cook returns to work, while two bungling cops played by Peter Stormare and Alexis Arquette do their best to track him down.

Eventually they do taking down Spider Mike, Cookie and Frisbee along the way after The Cook indelicately gives away his base of operations by, er, blowing it up accidentally. Nikki grows increasingly frustrated with her relationship with The Cook and rides away into the sunset on a bus. After posting bail The Cook convinces Ross to drive to the city to meet with The Man (Eric Roberts in an overly camp mode, for whatever reason) to get back on track. Ross agrees at it’ll give him a chance to see his ex-girlfriend that he mistakenly believes still loves him despite her extended campaign of not returning his calls and only contacting him to demand to be repaid. After she rejects him in suitably harsh terms Ross sleeps for the first time in days while The Cook drives to a new workshop, a caravan which he promptly blows up. Credits roll leaving the audience to work out what the point of it all was, if indeed one was present.

Condensed as above there’s almost a plot to the movie, although it’s pretty much just random events over a few days and is presented in such a dizzying style from pop promo director Jonas Akerlund (most notorious for his tabloid baiting video for Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up) that it’s purposefully disjointed, distracting and dizzying. I believe Akerlund has boasted of this containing the world record number of cuts in the editing process, and while this gives it a style that hasn’t been seen on a movie screen before it also proves that it’s one that has no place on a movie screen. The mechanics of a four minute music video and a feature film are very different beasts but Akerlund seems to have failed to realise this.

There are two obvious influences in Will De Los Santos and Creighton Vero’s script, Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr’s Requiem For A Dream and particularly Trainspotting, the Irvine Welsh novel adapted to an excellent movie directed by Danny Boyle. The promotion material in particular owes a debt to Trainspotting, all stylised pictures of the leads and custom logos for each one. While it’s picked up on the crazy fun-time happy go lucky antics of a bunch of quirky crazy individuals of varying degrees of likeability it seems to have rather missed out on showing the consequences of such a lifestyle.

Requiem For A Dream has one of the most depressing endings I’ve seen in a cinema. Trainspotting shows more than enough pain and suffering to show that the lows cannot possibly be compensated for by the highs. While we’re all adults and don’t need to be lectured continually that drugs are bad, m’kay (incidentally the reason all the current U.K. drugs education programs are doomed to failure), it’s only responsible to show the inevitable consequences of their addiction. If nothing else it may give us a reason to care about their characters which is noticeably absent in Spun.

With no weight to the plot this becomes a flyaway caricature of a bunch of drugged up losers who make a few pratfalls and that’s the extent of it. The biggest tragedy is that it’s a waste of talent. The excellent Schwartzman has little to do but be mildly likeable in an unengaging way and it’s only really Mickey Rourke, bizarrely who gets anything worthwhile to do. He has an excellent monologue about his love of female genitalia that rivals Tom Cruise’s ‘Respect The Cock’ speech in Magnolia for the ‘Best use of naughty bit discussion in a motion picture’ award. There are isolated moments of hilarity at some situations designed to be as silly as possible but nothing of any real wit.

And there’s the rub. Not every film has to have a point. Not every film has to be an engaging social commentary. Not every film has to be serious. While these are all major plus points I’m happy as long as a film is entertaining. Spun, I fear, is not. It’s not glamorising drug use, you certainly wouldn’t want to be any of these people. At the same time there’s no hope for any of their redemption or that they even realise that they’re aware of what pathetic specimens they are. If it doesn’t bother them, it’s not going to bother me much.

Akerlund’s continual speeding up and slowing down of film speed and overlaying different backgrounds make it a difficult film to watch for all the wrong reasons. It has all the gravitas of a Carry On film (Carry On Snorting, perhaps?) which makes it difficult to take it or its attempts at controversy seriously. The only purpose I can gather was for Akerlund to get people talking about him, and in that sense it succeeds. Unfortunately it’s at the expense of a movie which has a few interesting moments but reduces to an exercise in style over substance that doesn’t have a likeable style.