Drugstore Cowboy [1989]

Director: Gus Van Sant
Stars: Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James Le Gros, Heather Graham, Eric Hull
Genre: Crime, Drama
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 102 minutes

Gus Van Sant made his name with this offbeat story of a small group of drug addicts who heist pharmacies to feed their habit. Matt Dillon completely broke with his juvenile persona as Bob, the grungy ringleader and jittery mastermind of a junkie crew. With his frustrated wife Dianne (Kelly Lynch), his loyal partner, the easygoing Rick (James Le Gros), and Rick's juvenile girlfriend Nadine (Heather Graham in an early role), Bob plots ingenious heists and spends the rest of his days sitting around the house getting high. When the heat becomes too intense in Portland, the quartet hits the road for small-town drug stores and hospitals, but when their luck runs out it does so in grand fashion. Set in the Pacific Northwest of 1971, Van Sant so effortlessly re-creates the period that you'd think the film was a time capsule--except for the attitude. Van Sant refuses to moralize and lines his sympathies behind his characters. They're no heroes, but Van Sant can't cast them as villains either. His low-key direction concentrates on the flavor of day-to-day life for a crew of junkies living from fix to fix. Even his drug imagery is inventively placid, a dreamy set of floating visions that suggests their own disembodied states. James Remar costars as the dogged police detective Gentry and cult author William S. Burroughs makes a memorable appearance as the aging junkie Tom the Priest. --Sean Axmaker

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