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Film review: Spun

Published: Friday, May 16 2003 2:31 p.m. MDT

SPUN — turkey — Jason Schwartzman, Brittany Murphy, Mickey Rourke, John Leguizamo, Patrick Fugit, Mena Suvari, Peter Stormare, Deborah Harry, Eric Roberts; not rated, probable NC-17 (drug use, profanity, vulgarity, violence, sex, nudity, brief gore); see "Playing at local movie theaters" for complete listing of local theaters.

It's giving "Spun" too much credit to say it's all style and no substance. After all, whatever style this film does possess has been copped from "Requiem for a Dream," a far superior film that deals with some of the same subject matter.

Shameless rip-offs don't end there, though. This unsure-of-what-it-wants-to-be film desperately tries to tap into the anarchic dark-comic vibe of "Go." But instead of being funny, it's painfully obvious. In fact, it's just painful.

But what moves "Spun" into the intolerably awful category is that it doesn't really deglamorize the notion of recreational drug use, which seems to be its purpose. Instead, it soft-pedals its intended message.

The film also manages to get horrible performances out of a pretty talented cast, including Jason Schwartzman, who stars as Ross, a twentysomething speed freak. His addiction is fairly serious, but his supplier, Spider Mike (John Leguizamo), is all out (actually, he lost his "stash"). So Ross heads off with Nikki (Brittany Murphy), a stripper who's got an "in."

It turns out Nikki is living in hotel with her boyfriend, the Cook (Mickey Rourke), a drug supplier and manufacturer who's more than happy to give Ross what he wants — as long as he agrees to be their source of transportation. Meanwhile, a disgruntled customer (Patrick Fugit) has led the cops to Spider Mike — and perhaps to the source of all the crystal meth in the valley.

None of these characters is even the slightest bit appealing, but the cast seems to be making it all up on the spot, even the usually dependable Murphy, who's completely one-note here. Rourke seems to be the only one here who is aware of how awful the material is — not that it excuses his cartoony performance.

"Spun" is not rated but would probably receive an NC-17 for scenes of simulated methamphetamine use (smoked, snorted and injected), frequent use of strong sex-related profanity and crude sexual slang terms and references, violence (beatings and explosive mayhem), simulated sex and sex acts (including glimpses of pornographic material), male and full female nudity, and brief gore. Running time: 101 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com