Thursday 28 July 2005

Drugstore Cowboy (1989) - ickleReview (DVD)

Gus Van Sant movie. Possibly an influence on Larry Clark's Another Day in Paradise (1998). Matt Dillon plays Bob, a dope fiend who runs a two-boy, two-girl crew who rob drugstores - not for money, for pharmaceuticals, which they cook up and inject. It's 1971 in Portland, Oregon, where the gang move around the city, raiding and shooting up until the police get too close for comfort and force them to move on.

Kelly Lynch plays Dianne, Bob's bad influence girl; James Le Gros is Rick, the dimwit of the group, whose naive girlfriend, Nadine (Heather Graham, then only 19), hexes the crew by talking about dogs and putting a hat on a bed (superstitions established by previous bad and busted experiences of Bob and Dianne).

Then, as the ominous hat-on-bed suggests, it all goes wrong. Bob decides to get out and go straight on a 21-day methadone programme, and Gentry, the cop who has been chasing him all this time (played by James Remar), seems to be relieved and not unsympathetic that he's sorting himself out. Bob struggles less than expected to stay with it, despite his druggy past trying to catch up with him and tempt him back.

Van Sant's movie does not glamorize drug-taking and is uplifting in the sense that it suggests (without stating categorically and without ambiguity) that drug users can clean up their act to live normal, responsible lives. Tom the Priest (William S. Burroughs) provides a cameod counterpoint, reminiscing about the old days when the authorities weren't so hard on drug abuse, and fearing the future when the police might take the opportunity to establish a worldwide police network to counteract the narcotics industry.

Nugget: not always clear in its intentions, partly due to slightly deadpan acting and an ambiguous script, mottled with grey areas, which is not necessarily a bad thing because it gives the movie more life and encourages us to think for ourselves.

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