Cranking out pseudo-stylish junk
There's something rather admirable about Spun's casting strategy, which seemed to involve finding as many irritating actors as possible and having all of their characters strung out on crank. It's a bold and brazen approach --- kind of like if somebody told you they could toss a dime from the top of a skyscraper and it would embed into the skull of a passerby. The theory is interesting, maybe even a little cool, but it's nothing you really want to see happen.
I can't take John Leguizamo as it is, so how am I supposed to enjoy him as a whacked-out drug dealer who masturbates into a sock? I think Mena Suvari is overrated in both the acting and looks departments, and watching her trying to defecate (as well as showing the end product) isn't going to change my mind at all. And Brittany Murphy playing a crack whore? Don't get me started. It's not yet clear whether Jason Schwartzman will have a career more like Eric Roberts, Debbie Harry, or Mickey Rourke, and it doesn't really matter, because all four of them are in Spun. With a cast like that, why bother enlisting people like Rob Halford and Ron Jeremy for cameos?
Set over three days in Eugene, Oregon, Spun (which opens Friday, April 18, at the Little) is about a college dropout named Ross (Schwartzman), who just wants to score some meth so he can mellow out with his new stripper girlfriend (Chloe Hunter). When he goes to the home of his regular dealer, Spider Mike (Leguizamo), Ross gets temporarily mixed up in a zany world of rotten teeth, bad makeup, and bright colors. Spider Mike's girlfriend, Cookie (Suvari), is constipated, and pal Frisbee (Patrick Fugit) has impossibly bad skin and is addicted to video games (as well as the meth).
Nikki (Murphy) is also at the carnivalesque home, and she happens to be the lady friend of Spider Mike's supplier. Because Ross is the only person in this film with a functioning automobile, Nikki hooks him up with the wrestling-obsessed meth-cooker/cowboy, appropriately named The Cook (Rourke). A deal is hashed out, with Ross agreeing to be The Cook's errand boy in exchange for a nice supply of crank. We see what takes place over three of Ross's sleepless days, during which he absent-mindedly leaves his girlfriend handcuffed to his bed.
Spun is cute at first, for about 15 minutes, then it quickly spirals out of control and becomes something you just don't want to watch anymore. The film was directed by Jonas Åkerlund, who made a name for himself by creating music videos like Madonna's "Ray of Light" and, more notably (but definitely less seen), Prodigy's MTV-banned "Smack My Bitch Up." Maybe if you're a meth head, or just hang out with meth heads on a regular basis, you'll be able to appreciate the intricacies of this film, which did not appeal to me in the slightest. Åkerlund montages us to death's door, but I guess that's the kind of thing one should expect from a video director (I mean, they can't all be like Spike).
There are a pair of very different Japanese imports running at the Dryden Theatre this week, starting with Shinobu Yaguchi's Adrenaline Drive (Thursday, April 17). The film is a notable, tongue-in-cheek mélange of American action-film clichés, despite containing a baffling lack of most American action-film clichés. Think of it as a Japanese version of True Romance, only without the high-quality co-stars.
Drive is about two star-crossed characters who are both in their early 20s and painfully shy --- almost to the point of being mute. Satoru (Masanobu Ando), apparently the only guy in Japan who isn't a verbally abusive prick, can't find the backbone to tell his boss he wants to quit. When some innocent horsing around leads to Satoru rear-ending the car of a powerful mobster (Yutaka Matsushige), it sets off a crazy chain reaction that puts our male protagonist on the run with about two million Yakuza yen and the companionship of Shizuko (Hikari Ishida), a bookish hospital nurse with nerdy hair and even nerdier glasses (cue obligatory makeover scene).
The funniest parts of Drive mostly involve a pack of junior Yakuza wannabes, who are sent to retrieve the missing loot (they're played by a six-man comedy troupe called Jovi Jova). There's a very funny scene in which they try to dodge a restaurant bill, and a bit with a shovel that could have been in a Three Stooges short. Actually, most of Drive plays downright cartoonish, especially a couple of characters' Wiley E. Coyote-like ability to recover from some pretty serious injuries.
On the flip side is Seijun Sujuki's Pistol Opera (Friday, April 18), which is an unofficial follow-up to his brilliant 1967 flick, Branded To Kill. Both pictures focus on professional killers --- specifically, the number three-ranked assassin trying to knock off numero uno. But whereas Kill was uproariously stylish via pop-noir, Opera goes in the opposite direction by concentrating much more on color, choreography, and composition than any kind of conventional narrative. To some (like me), taking that cinematic highroad just makes it a lot more boring.
If you're looking for something to do on Easter Sunday (after inhaling all of your jellybeans), the Dryden will be hosting the world premiere of the gloriously restored version of Cecil B. De Mille's The Ten Commandments. Please note that this is the silent, pre-Heston version from 1923.
Interested in raw, unsanitized movie ramblings from Jon? Visit his site, Planet Sick-Boy (www.sick-boy.com), or listen to him on WBER's Friday Morning Show.