It may not qualify as a comeback on the order of John Travolta's in "Pulp Fiction," but Mickey Rourke's turn as "The Cook" in the frenetic drug movie "Spun" is so surreal and sympathetic that it may make viewers forgive Rourke's long list of cinematic sins after the promise he showed in films like "Body Heat" and "Diner."
The first 15 claustrophobic minutes of "Spun" unspool in a filthy apartment, where Spider Mike (John Leguizamo, even more hyper than usual, if that's possible) and four other speed freaks (Mena Suvari, Brittany Murphy, Jason Schwartzman and Patrick Fugit) wait jumpily for The Cook to concoct a fresh batch of crystal methamphetamine in his motel room. Events send Ross (Schwartzman) on a frenzied three-day road trip that involves picking up a stripper and leaving her tied to his bed while, in a speed-induced, sleep-deprived jag, he plays chauffeur to The Cook. Fugit, meanwhile, proves that his acclaimed debut in "Almost Famous" was no fluke, as he steals his few scenes as an eccentric loser turned hapless informer.
In his feature debut, Swedish director Jonas Akerlund skillfully uses lightning-quick editing to convey the sense of hopped-up paranoia. He has effectively created a head-spinning, flesh-crawling milieu all his own, but "Spun" is ultimately short on substance and long on style.
The film has moments that echo "Trainspotting" for their druggie "ick" factor. (Akerlund crosscuts Leguizamo masturbating and Murphy on the toilet straining to defecate.) Other moments are simply camp. (Deborah Harry is amusing but unnecessary as a leather-clad lesbian who also happens to be a phone-sex worker.) Rourke and Eric Roberts bizarrely reprise "The Pope of Greenwich Village" in a scene with Roberts as a gay benefactor who supplies Rourke with speed-making equipment.
Through it all, Rourke brings a seedy gravitas to this over-the-top chaos, particularly in the film's final scenes. "Spun" makes you want to run home and shower, but Rourke's performance gets under your skin.
2 1/2 stars (out of 4)
Directed by Jonas Akerlund; written by Will De Los Santos and Creighton Vero; photographed by Eric Broms; edited by Johan Soderberg, Akerlund; production design by Richard LaSalle; music by Billy Corgan; produced by Danny Vinick, Chris Hanley, Fernando Sulichin, Timothy Wayne Peternel. A Newmarket release; opens Friday, April 4. Running time: 1:41. MPAA rating: R (pervasive drug content, strong sexuality, language and some violence).
The Cook - Mickey Rourke
Ross - Jason Schwartzman
Spider Mike - John Leguizamo
Cookie - Mena Suvari
Nikki - Brittany Murphy
Frisbee - Patrick Fugit