I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for Mickey Rourke
over the past couple of years. Now
I finally understand why he was once referred to as the next Marlon
Brando. There’s just something about
his acting abilities that seem otherworldly.
He oozes machismo and intensity, but also hides a vulnerability that
would make Tom Hanks jealous. While, to
many, Sin City was the film that brought him back to the forefront, for me it
was the criminally underrated film Spun.
Spun follows a couple of days in the lives of different
meth users, chronicling how the drug gradually forces their lives to spin out
of control; some are lost, others achieve retribution, but not without
sacrifice. The film was directed by Jonas
Akerlund (a famed music video director) and stars a who’s who of up and coming
actors in the form Jason Schwartzman, Brittany Murphy, Mena Suvari, Patrick
Fugit and John Leguizamo. The cast is
actually quite large, but these are the characters that make the most impact
throughout the story. Other actors
enter the fray, such as Eric Roberts, Peter Stormare and Alexis Arquette. However, it is the Cook, played by Rourke,
that keeps the film together. He’s the
wrestling loving protagonist and antagonist in equal measure; someone who you
feel sympathy for but also hate because he’s responsible for destroying all the
young lives by supplying them with their drug of choice. The film more or less follows Schwartzman’s
character as he sets out in search of his girlfriend and along the way meets a
series of demented and twisted characters.
Throughout his journey he eventually becomes the driver for Rourke’s
almost mythic Cook character and that’s when things really get out of control.
Seeing the film for the first time back in 2002, I thought
it was a shameless exercise in production value and flashy editing techniques
(it holds the Guinness World Record for most cuts in a feature film). But seeing the film many years later, I
discovered that there is much more going on beneath the surface. While films such as Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream are more respected in the annals of drug cinema because
they have “a message”, Spun approaches its subject matter in a different
light; in that, you can look at it either as a warning or a celebration of
living life without worry. But it makes
sure to emphasize that there are always consequences.
The characters in Spun are broken people; wandering
throughout life foolishly trying to hold on to whatever normalcy they once
had. Throughout the film, we get to
know these characters and while some are drug addled for the majority of the
running time, there are moments where their humanity shines through. Those moments are both heartbreaking and
beautiful. I love the fact that the
characters (with names as outlandish as Spider Mike, Frisbee, Cookie and April
Love) appear to have been taken straight out of a video game or comic book,
which explains their manic behavior and appearance. While unrealistic in many ways, it makes sense considering the
film is seen through the eyes of meth users who haven’t slept for what appears
to be weeks.
Recently, Spun has been attacked for glorifying drug
use. I personally do not see where this
idea comes from. Like most films in
drug cinema, the filmmakers are trying to show the effects of drugs. The only difference is, unlike other films,
some of the characters in Spun do not learn anything by the time the credits
roll. To me, that makes it even more
realistic. This film shows regular
people at their best and their worst.
It’s completely up to you to decide if the filmmakers went about it the
right way. I just hope you have an open
mind about it.
As I mentioned earlier, Rourke’s the Cook is the character
that keeps the whole film together; there’s so much happening beneath the
surface of his façade. It’s surprising
to me that he has yet to achieve a cult status in order to help the film reach
a bigger audience. Yes, Rourke has been
ridiculed for his appearance as of late, but in my opinion I think it benefits
him as an actor. There’s legitimate age
and pain behind those eyes, which helps push the Cook above and beyond one of
those average “wise beyond their years” characters to become one of my most
favorite characters in any film.
I find beauty in oddities and Spun contains its fair
share of oddities. Give it a chance. If you don’t like it, I implore you to watch
it again. Ignore the negative word of
mouth it’s received since its release. Spun is definitely not for every taste, but for those who like it,
you’ll find something new to enjoy with every subsequent viewing.