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Spun (2002)

The Cook

the ultimate speed freaks tale.

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 101 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

When paranoid drug dealer Spider Mike (John Leguizamo) and his ricket-toothed girlfriend Cookie (Mena Suvari) are too spun to find their stash, their friend Nikki (Brittany Murphy) steps in, offering to introduce drug-seeking college drop-out Ross (Jason Schwartzman) to her boyfriend, the Cook (Mickey Rourke), a motel-hopping cowboy who is the source of all Spider Mike's crystal methamphetamine. Next thing he knows, Ross is being given large supplies of crank on the understanding that he make himself available at all hours to chauffeur Nikki and the Cook in his beat-up Volvo.

What follows is a sleepless, hallucinatory flurry of errands from the Cook's motel room to a veterinary clinic, from a Foodmart to a liquor store, from a porn shop to a strip club, from Spider Mike's dingy fortress to Ross' one-room flat, and from the Big City to a trailer in the middle of nowhere. With sheer physical exhaustion starting to take its toll, a pair of speed-snorting cops closing in, and Ross' addled conscience beginning to nag him about the naked stripper April (Chloe Hunter) that he has left bound and gagged to his bed for days, it soon becomes 'crystal' clear that what goes up must eventually come crashing down.

Convincingly simulating the effect of a prolonged crystal meths high, Jonas Åkerlund's 'Spun' is full of jolting cuts, juddery camerawork, rapid moodswings, bursts of pornograhic animation, lots of fidgeting, nail-biting and shouting, and a general sense of unpredictable chaos. This invests the film with all the imbalance of a chemically-induced experience: although every moment jumps and shudders with dizzily exhausting intensity, what they add up to is a strangely meandering, episodic affair whose ending seems arbitrarily dictated by whatever time the drugs happen to wear off. Yet the ending, when it does eventually come, offers a dose of reality so explosively downbeat that it makes up for all the aimless 'spinning' that may have preceded.

If you are expecting 'Spun' to be a heady celebration of drug culture, then you are going to be seriously disappointed. Its settings are pure white-trash squalor, and its characters are all grotesque – even 'American Beauty' pin-up Mena Suvari is made to look repellent. Ross, the softly spoken 'normal guy' who is our designated driver through the crystal world, shows a casual cruelty in his treatment of April that is beyond monstrous – and his frequent, pathetic attempts to contact his ex-girlfriend even though their relationship is well and truly over come to epitomise the flight from reality that all these hopeless characters are attempting. So 'Spun' turns out to be a tragic, apocalyptic nightmare of gross irresponsibility and extreme self-delusion.

Schwartzman ('Rushmore') plays lost soul Ross with sympathetic spinelessness, Rourke (in a career-defining performance) transforms the Cook into a blankly inscrutable icon, Murphy projects vulnerable warmth as Nikki, and everyone else is suitably over the top. The frenetic visuals and editing are extraordinary – even if they might leave you feeling that you have been speeding for days on end without respite – and the dialogue is grimly funny.

Be warned though – if you intend to watch 'Spun' while actually on drugs, you are in for one very long bad trip.

It's Got: Phone sex, shit floating in a toilet bowl, acne, rickets, obesity, a green dog called Taco, and Deborah Blondie Harry (as the dyke neighbour) declaring I dont like resorting to violence but men, theyre evil, they need healing.

It Needs: To go into rehab.


'Spun' is a frenetically paced trip taken by people going nowhere fast, caught on a web of their own spinning. More subtle, but no less devastating, than 'Requiem for a Dream' in its depiction of pharmaceutical crash-and-burn, it lets the characters' tragic trajectories speak for themselves instead of preaching an anti-drug gospel from some elevated pulpit. A sleazily compelling insider's view into the nihilistic, self-deluding world of crystal meths.