Synopsis: A drug dealer introduces one of his customers, a 'speed freak', to the man who runs the meth lab. A crazy three-day adventure ensues.
Some movies, like The Godfather and Boogie Nights, set out to capture the ins and outs of a subculture. Spun is one of those movies and it looks at a subculture that has absolutely no redeeming qualities. It’s a movie where you can’t look away from the screen because whether the movie reflects reality or not, it feels real and for several hours watching a movie that’s all that matters. Why should such disgusting subject matter be interesting to anyone? No human is born a degenerate and we are all capable of becoming degenerates if not for a mysterious combination of nature, nurture, and personal choices.
Breaking Bad has become the go-to reference for crystal meth. While the show presented the “speed” world as featuring characters we might be interested in sharing a beer with and chatting, Spun doesn’t want you interested in ever being caught in the same room with a person involved in the meth trade. From the users to the top of the food chain dealers, they are all scum whose presence would make any normal person uncomfortable. Meth isn’t cocaine and this movie makes certain to show a unique set of characters that even when doing well, are always down-and-out and in a very unromanticized way. There is no character to meth like heroin (Trainspotting, Pulp Fiction), there is no glamorous side to meth like cocaine (Goodfellas, Blow). Spun is a several-day snapshot of a specific drug and the people that are drawn to it like flies to crap.
Ross, played by Jason Schwartzman, is the scariest character in the movie because he appears to represent what could easily happen to us, the audience, or to one of our loved ones, regardless of the household we come from. Throughout the movie, he wears a varsity jacket that has seen better days. That jacket is his life, something that once showed a lot of promise but is now just dirty and worn would be rejected by the salvation army. Throughout the movie, he also obsessively leaves his ex-girlfriend voicemails expressing love and his current positive trajectory. He’s a drug addict and his love for his ex is akin to his love for his jacket, just something to make him normal again and he needs both around as reminders. Neither will help as he commits unspeakable crimes in the movie and often without motivation. While Ross might have had a chance at one point in his life, it appears everyone else in the movie is a born loser.
The highlight of Spun is Mickey Rourke, a highlight in almost any movie he is in. He plays The Cook, the one responsible for creating the drug and distributing it to the dealers. He is looked up to by almost every character in the movie and exudes confidence and wisdom. To the audience, it is clear that both qualities stem not from any personal success, but his ability to survive. To the characters in this movie, they are one and the same, although none of them seem to realize it.
This movie is not based around a plot. It’s a learning experience where you follow specific characters and join them on a journey as they try to accomplish goals the rest of us in society made a willful decision not to understand. Jonas Åkerlund perfectly executes a screenplay by Will De Los Santos and Creighton Vero and the result is an unforgettable movie that is at times funny, at times scary, and ultimately just sad. Towards the end of the film, The Cook shares a childhood story with an almost comatose Ross during a long drive out towards the desert. It’s a very sad story without being cheap or cliché. It shows us that The Cook is not fooled by his aura. He knows who he is, just like everyone portrayed in the movie. Deep down they are all self aware. Watching the characters in this movie I’m reminded that, as Mama said in Forrest Gump, “sometimes we all do things that, well, just don't make no sense.”