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A group of drug users in the 1970's help finance their habit by robbing drug stores. Matt Dillon's character is very superstitious and eventually his luck runs out. Written by
Jason Ihle <email@example.com>
A poignant but realistic look at the drug subculture
If you're one of the so-called `art-film' aficionados who was disappointed, as I was, by Requiem for a Dream (and even if you weren't), you'll love Drugstore Cowboy. Directed by the man who gave us such classics as To Die For and Good Will Hunting, Drugstore Cowboy is, without doubt, Van Sant's greatest work. It's a magnificent time capsule from the early seventies, having no reference to the Vietnam War, Kent State, or any other icon of the period. It's purely about the drug subculture.
Set along the affluent north Atlantic seaboard, where pharmacies and drugstores litter the urban landscape, the drama revolves around four friends who support their drug habits by robbing the official dispensaries of addictive substances. An interesting and compelling setup all by itself, in lesser hands, the script and action would be enough to produce a decent flick; but, it goes way beyond that. Matt Dillon gives what I think is his best performance ever, a perfectly charming substance abuser who has created a little cocoon of a world all to himself. Like little moons revolving around his dreamy and sometimes terrifying little world, the drugstores he stalks all promise a one-way trip to a different place. As viewers, we're all sucked in by the gravity of his world, such that we even begin to understand and believe his peculiar little superstitious rituals. In this special existence, they make sense. To transgress against the rules is to court disaster. And like Adam in the garden, he eventually breaks his own rules, and pays the price.
But it's a fortunate fall from grace. Drugstore Cowboy is completely realistic in its portrayal of the full-blown addict's hitting rock bottom, an experience that is foundational in the wisdom of AA. The recovery scenes are moving in their sincerity and simplicity, none of which is sugarcoated or saccharine. And yet, the recovery scenes are both joyous and heartbreakingly poignant. God, what a great movie.
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