Region 2 (UK) DVD

Director Jonas Åkerlund

Starring:  Jason Schwartzman, Mickey Rourke, John Leguizamo

A speed junkie spends a couple of days with 'The Cook' and his low-life associates.

A film about a bunch of junkies and the people they associate with might not be everyone's idea of fun, especially one like this, which apparently relishes wallowing in the squalor of their methamphetamine-addled lives. However, Jonas Ǻkerlund's Spun is not quite as depressing as the film it draws much stylistic inspiration from (Darren Aronofsky's Requiem For A Dream), thanks to a quirky sense of humour, and some unrestrained and uninhibited performances from its ensemble cast. Supporting roles for Peter Stormare, Eric Roberts, Alexis Arquette and Darkman's Larry Drake, and cameo appearances by the legendary Ron Jeremy, American History X director Tony Kaye and The Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan (who also wrote the score) add to the proceedings.

Swedish wunderkind director Ǻkerlund has a background in music video, and was responsible for The Prodigy's notorious 1997 Smack My Bitch Up video, (which was recently listed by Q magazine as one of the twenty best music videos of all time). Ǻkerlund claims that Spun, which runs for ninety-seven minutes, holds some sort of record for the number of shots it contains: 5345.

The film had a budget of about $2.8m, and was shot on 16mm film (with some material, such as the C.O.P.S-style B.U.S.T sequences, shot on digital video). The film was subsequently processed digitally, and then bumped up to 35mm for theatrical presentation. Pathé's DVD, which is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, looks fine: better, in fact, than most 16mm-sourced material you see. The picture has a particular heightened-reality look, but this is conceptual. There's a tendency towards detail being swallowed up in the darker areas of the picture, but this, too, seems to be deliberate, or unavoidable. There's some grain, of course, but that's also an inevitable reflection of its origins, rather than a transfer flaw. 

The transfer is virtually dirt-free, and there are no apparent encoding artefacts. The average bit rate is 7.24Mb/s, rarely dipping below 6Mb/s. The layer change isn't ideally placed, but is relatively unobtrusive. There are a couple of subtitles in the film, and these appear as they would have been seen in the theatrical prints (thankfully have not been replaced by player-generated subtitles). English HoH subtitles are available for the film, but there are no subtitles for the bonus materials or commentary tracks.

The film's audio, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 format (at 448kbps), matches the film's hyper-real style wherever it's appropriate, with good use of the surrounds and low-frequencies. Whether by error or by design, the audio that accompanies some of the animated menu screens originates from the surround speakers, to surreal effect.

The UK disc has a modest selection of bonus features, enough to qualify it for Special Edition status, even though it's not being promoted as such.

The film is accompanied by two rambling commentary tracks. The first, by Ǻkerlund and American Beauty actress Mena Suvari, is almost completely disposable, but a lot of fun, if you're in the mood to eavesdrop on two buddies who seem to be as stoned as the characters in the film. The second, by Ǻkerlund and co-writer / co-producer Creighton Vero, is of substantially more value. It doesn't go into much detail, but it does outline some of the influences that shaped the film, and describes some of the problems the filmmakers encountered during production. The second track gives the listener a good idea of what it's like to make an ultra-low budget film, and about how artistic decisions are constantly affected by things like which music tracks the production are allowed to use, or can afford.

There are two versions of the disc available in the US: an R-Rated version, which does not include commentary tracks, and an Unrated, Uncensored, Director's Cut version (which, incidentally, appears to be the same cut of the film that was released here). The American Unrated disc offers two commentary tracks, but instead of the Ǻkerlund / Suvari pairing, they get one by Producer Timothy Wayne Peternel and co-producer / co-writer Will De Los Santos.

There are five Deleted Scenes on the UK disc, totalling about six minutes. These are presented in VHS-quality, letterboxed format, with AVID-style editing timecode. These are: Rescuing April (Ross's neighbour releases April, and they wreck his room); Porn Shop (Ross and The Cook take drugs at the porn shop, and Ross hallucinates about April and Nikki); I'm Gonna Die (an extension to the B.U.S.T. scene, featuring Moustache Cop); Fat Boy (the kid visits Spider Mike); and At The Liquor Store (the two Liquor Market clerks find a packet of drugs outside the store). These seem to tally with those on the US disc, except Rescuing April is titled Trashed on the American disc.

Two trailers are also offered. The first is the especially-shot Cooking Show trailer, which features Mickey Rourke (who plays The Cook). The second is the UK theatrical trailer, which does a good job of capturing the film's breathless pace, but perhaps gives undue emphasis to a romance between two of the characters. 

Poster Gallery - Pathé and Empire Design held a competition among BA (Hons) Graphic Design students at Central Saint Martin's College to come up with promotional posters or campaign images for the film. This video presentation displays their often very-creative efforts (5m).

MTV Premiere - two minutes of sped-up highlights footage from the film's premiere, which was attended by Deborah Harry and Mena Suvari, amongst others.

On Set Photo's - stills by Spun's Director of Photography Eric Broms, set to music (2m).

The Unrated Region 1 disc features the Cooking Show trailer, a theatrical trailer and a TV Spot, the deleted scenes and a music video (Above The Candy Store, by Paola, which isn't on the UK disc), but doesn't have the MTV Premiere footage or the Poster Gallery. The UK and US versions both feature two commentary tracks, but only one is common to both. Fans of the film will have to buy both discs! Otherwise it would appear that the UK disc clearly offers the better deal.











Unless explicitly stated, DVD screen captures used in the reviews are for illustrative purposes only, and are not intended to be accurate representations of the DVD image.   While screen captures are generally in their correct aspect ratio, there will often have been changes made to the resolution, contrast, hue and sharpness, to optimise them for web display.

Site content copyright © J.A.Knott - 2002-2004