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Spun (May 11/03)

Spun probably would've been a lot more effective if Requiem for a Dream didn't exist. The two films are incredibly similar in style, with the latter taking a much more somber approach to its subject. Spun is mostly played for laughs, as evidenced by the broad style employed by the various actors. And while Requiem for a Dream is ultimately a good deal more powerful than Spun, the film is enjoyable enough - albeit in an entirely forgettable way.

Jason Schwartzman stars as Ross, a college dropout addicted to crystal-meth. Over the course of three days, Ross encounters a variety of oddball folks - including a stripper named Nikki (Brittany Murphy) and her boyfriend, the local meth producer, The Cook (Mickey Rourke) - but all he really wants to do is hook up with his old girlfriend, Amy.

There's not much plot in Spun, but in all fairness, it'd be near impossible to jam a plot into a flick like this. Director Jonas Akerlund makes up for that shortcoming by infusing virtually every sequence with outrageous visuals, while keeping the pace extremely brisk. It's the kind of movie that's basically entertaining while you're watching it, but will more than likely be instantly forgotten the minute it's over. Part of the problem is that there's nothing too serious here; aside from the fact that these characters are all drug addicts, the tone of the film is kept fairly light. Akerlund's more interested in exploring the everyday existence of these people, and as such, keeps the proceedings relatively free of obvious story interruptions.

Having said that, there is quite a lot going on in Spun - mostly involving Ross and his attempts to break free of this lifestyle. The film goes to great lengths to introduce a variety of quirky characters, and with the exception of Ross and Nikki, they're a mostly cartoonish bunch. From Spider Mike, the tweaked-out dealer played by John Leguizamo to the two over-the-top police officers (Peter Stormare and Alexis Arquette) that work for a reality show called BUST, there's not much subtlety at work here. But Akerlund's direction is about as grandiose as the characters, which elevates the film to a level that's almost farcical. Through it all, though, Schwartzman's Ross remains someone that we have a certain amount of sympathy for - despite the fact that he keeps a stripper tied to his bed for the majority of the film's duration. It's interesting to note that, among the actors, Rourke winds up being Spun's scene stealer. He's finally found a role that his increasingly sleazy presence is perfectly suited for, and The Cook becomes a character that could probably sustain a film of his own.

Some mention must be made of the movie's score, which has been written by Billy Corgan (formerly of Smashing Pumpkins). Corgan does a fantastic job of putting music to some really bizarre visuals, and even provides several songs that appear throughout the film. And while the score may be one of the more effective elements of the film, there's a lot worth recommending about Spun. Though it lacks the power of Requiem for a Dream, it'll probably satisfy filmgoers in the mood for a wacky comedy that's slightly more subversive than Weekend at Bernie's.

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