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3 reviews, 38 user ratings

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Drugstore Cowboy
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by Jack Sommersby

"The Best Film of 1989 and an Authentic Masterpiece"
5 stars

Before director Gus Van Sant crapped out on us with turgid Hollywood tripe like "Good Will Hunting" and the 1998 "Psycho" remake, he proved himself a daring, innovative auteur with this masterful adaptation of convicted felon James Fogle's blisteringly forceful novel of the 1970s' drug scene.

The best film of the year is this dazzingly original, bitingly funny, emotionally penetrating look at an outlaw gang of addicts (composed of couples Matt Dillon and Kelly Lynch, and James LeGros and Heather Graham) as they travel throughout the Pacific Northwest in 1971 in search of drugs, drugs, and more drugs. They're not your average street junkies, though: they're coordinated and careful and resourceful young adults who rob drugstores to attain their preferred choice of prescription drugs (preferably Dilaudid, which they refer to as "Powder D" and is as potent as heroin). They're largely successful in their illegal endeavors, with a sneaking precision to their methods that'd make an Enron exec gush with envy; and they're also exceedingly cautious, burying the drugs they're not currently using or jettisoning their stash through holes in the floorboard of their car before they're pulled over. These miniscule details are helplessly intriguing -- you feel you're getting an education in something you're probably better off not knowing -- and if they seem to add up, that's largely due in part to the same-name novel co-writer/director Gus Van Sant has faithfully adapted: it was written by James Fogle, who's still serving a lengthy prison sentence for robbing drugstores. The consequences of drug addiction are dexterously layered throughout the film instead of being simplistically pounded home a la Requiem for a Dream, yet the film never mistakenly goes didactic on us, because it trusts enough in its lead character (which the galvanizing Dillon smartly underplays) to allow his glints of intelligence and overall sense of decency to clue us into the potential being wasted (he even openly admits to a counselor that he "likes drugs, I like the whole lifestyle"). Making something function as both a cautionary fable and a black comedy (exp: a superstitious couple viewing a hat left on a bed as "the kiss of death") can be a chore, but Van Sant shows an ironclad hold on the material. He nails down tones and textures and moods and atmosphere with the effortless zeal of a born master, and his camerabatics give the proceedings an off-kilter feel that nevertheless stays rooted in reality -- the very thing its anti-heroes try their damndest to obscure themselves from.

Should have garnered a ton of Oscar nominations, but Academy voters, unlike Van Sant, decided to play it safe. Shame, shame, shame.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2116&reviewer=327
originally posted: 08/12/04 20:40:32
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User Comments

12/28/17 morris campbell entertaining & realistic drug film 4 stars
9/19/15 Langano Brilliant. 5 stars
4/24/15 Loner One of Gus Van Sant's best films 5 stars
3/16/13 Jeff Wilder Fantastic. Dillon's best role. Brilliant mix of message and story. 5 stars
1/27/11 Moose Rapper Solid drug-drama 4 stars
4/02/09 brian Pretty good, but for a better film on the same subject see Requiem For a Dream. 4 stars
7/24/06 Lilly is there a rodeo? 2 stars
6/19/06 Joanie very funny 1 stars
11/21/05 Agent Sands Another petty street punk narrating his story about drugs and violent vignettes. Effective. 4 stars
9/28/04 Daveman Unconvincing and devoid of insight from the get-go with sketchy characters to boot. 3 stars
7/30/04 DM Good, but I'm not sure what all the hype is about 4 stars
6/13/04 MyGreenBed Very good, however the "drugs as art" thing simply doesn't appeal to me much. 4 stars
10/02/03 Kyle It's been a while since I saw it, but I distinctly remember being disappointed. 3 stars
5/16/03 Andrew Carden Great Movie, Good Performances, but It Isn't Really Awesome Material. 4 stars
4/07/03 Jack Sommersby A masterpiece. The best of its kind ever made. Period. Dillon is a revelation. 5 stars
2/07/03 natasha_theobald gritty and unwavering 5 stars
1/25/03 GheyDude Outstanding movie. Intensity without the hype. 3 stars
12/27/02 Ally Gator Van Sant even makes Matt Dillon look like a great actor. Fantastic flick! 5 stars
12/23/02 TheBomb69 Heather Graham even looks hot after an OD 5 stars
12/02/02 Matt they don't get much call for junkies in the priesthood anymore 5 stars
11/21/02 Dramamine this movie is better than drugs 5 stars
11/21/02 dead great 5 stars
10/30/02 jag wicked,wicked film.........a classic! 5 stars
10/24/02 mr. Pink Good movie with good performances all round. a lot better than the similar Jesus Son 4 stars
9/28/02 Charles Tatum Wow, drug addiction is so fucking COOL 3 stars
3/05/02 Alan Smithee A great and realistic film. Matt Dillon and Kelly Lynch are fantastic. 5 stars
6/02/01 Basil Really good movie. 5 stars
11/07/00 Jon Axt classic 5 stars
10/13/00 comeasur A dreamy ride through Van Sants imagery.Have a heart and spare the Ben Hogans. Must see. 5 stars
5/26/00 master.node Not bad. (and BTW, druggies *are not* victims) 4 stars
4/20/00 PJ some of the best images produced on film, Dillon and Van Sant's crowning achievment, wow 5 stars
4/14/00 Elvisfan Easily the best from Matt & Van Sant; Heather Graham also memorable 5 stars
2/09/00 Perverted Pixie "Idaho" was better, but this is still classic Van Sant. It kick's "Trainspotting"'s arse! 5 stars
8/26/99 Bornslippy The film captured some brilliant performances from the cast, great imagery, amazing 5 stars
7/01/99 Christina a realistic depiction of the life and trials of a drug addict 5 stars
6/15/99 David It's a real classic, and even wrings a great perfomance from Matt Dillon. 5 stars
6/14/99 Dylan Youve got to see this movie. In my opinion it is Dillon's finest moment. 4 stars
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  02-Jul-1989 (R)

  02-Feb-1990 (18)

  02-Feb-1990 (R)

Directed by
  Gus Van Sant

Written by
  Gus Van Sant
  James Fogle

  Matt Dillon
  Kelly Lynch
  James LeGros
  Heather Graham
  Eric Hull
  Max Perlich

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