I’ll just come right out and say it: Spun is probably the best movie about drugs. And I mean that in every possible way. From a technical standpoint, this movie is a fucking masterpiece. Did you know that it includes more than record-breaking 5000 edits? This makes it incredibly pacey like you’re watching a really long but very entertaining music video. This is really not surprising since this is how director Jonas Åkerlund got his start in the entertainment industry.
Ahhh, it was a cold Saturday morning when I woke up and saw for the first time the video of one of my favorite bands. Prodigy have just released their controversial video for Smack My Bitch Up and I was freaking loving it. It was debauchery and hedonism incarnate and it sparked a hope in me that one day I could experience something similar. Of course, the director of the video was Jonas, who just a year later won a Grammy (Madonna – Ray of Light).
The movie opens with this young guy driving through the arid desert landscape into a generic small town. At first, I couldn’t recognize what song was playing in the background but the lyrics seemed awfully familiar. And then it hit me. Who knew that that song fits so well with the whole narrative here? And if you’re a fan of metal music that’s not the only reference you’re going to enjoy. We will visit Mother North (still second to Hvite Krists Død) and meet the one and only Turbo Lover.
Like all great movies, Spun successfully blends several perspectives into one hell of an experience. It’s incredibly entertaining and if you don’t want to delve any deeper you can just enjoy the bizarre situations and characters. And there will be plenty of them, trust me. You can watch this movie as a cautionary tale or you can revel in its decadence. You can pity the characters or laugh at them and their troubles. Or love their carpe diem vibe. I could go on and on but you get the picture.
Spun also paints a very real picture of an addict. I can quit any time, just one more fix (queue Ministry’s song of the same title), and all the other stuff is present and accounted for. The characters feel authentic and intriguing, all living in this strange world created by methamphetamine. They are morally ambiguous, something that’s best exemplified with the “hero” of the story Ross. Because it’s so stylistically in-your-face, it might take you a couple of viewings to see the complexity of the characters. However, I assure you it is there.
Of course, the cast of Spun was fucking phenomenal. Mickey Rourke with his menacing looks was a force of nature as The Cook. Next up we have Jason Schwartzman with an incredibly strong performance, conveying all highs and lows of such a life. John Leguizamo and Mena Suvari make one hell of a couple as twitchy dealer Spider and his nasty girlfriend Cookie. I would also like to mention Brittany Murphy with a nuanced and convincing performance. She tragically died a couple of years later but she lives on as Nikki, forever trying to get to her son.
After you’ve seen Spun, you might think to yourself what a crazy ride this was. And then it gets even crazier. The movie is based on a three-day adventure that William De Los Santos experienced back in the nineties. This explains why the characters, story, and everything else seems so authentic and engaging. Of course, they tweaked, no pun intended, a couple of things but this is basically it.
I think to call Spun a pretentious movie would be pretentious. This is an incredibly well-made wild ride through the world of drug addicts. I would compare it to nature documentaries if only the animals could tell us their wildest tales. This is a movie that will leave you feeling dirty but richer for another perspective on life. It’s similar to Trainspotting only it’s more entertaining. And I can’t compare it to The Salton Sea, another movie set in a similar world. It’s a unique movie that I urge you to check out.
Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Writers: Will De Los Santos, Creighton Vero
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy, John Leguizamo, Mena Suvari, Patrick Fugit
Fun Facts: The wrestling video playing in Mickey Rourke’s room is the Insane Clown Posse’s “Juggalo Championshit Wrestling” (JCW)