This drama centers on Hank Chinaski, the fictional alter-ego of "Factotum" author Charles Bukowski, who wanders around Los Angeles, CA trying to live off jobs which don't interfere with his primary interest, which is writing. Along the way, he fends off the distractions offered by women, drinking and gambling.
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Self-declared aspiring writer Hank Chinaski has neither qualifications, ambition nor ethics. Any dead-end job he lands is soon lost through laziness or mischief. His relationship with fellow deadbeat Jan gets strained to crisis through her insecurity, so he even gives up betting on horses which brought in easy money. Written by
'A man or woman of all work' is indeed what Matt Dillon is in this out-there adaptation of Bukowski stories. Bent Hamer directs in this brilliant and quirky tale of a man who walks through life doing odd-jobs to fund his booze, gambling and womanising habits.
Henry Chinaski is made real by the always brilliant Matt Dillon. It really is no surprise that Hollywood's former pin-up embodies the part so well, as his perfected mix of sleaze and slack minded cool have made him the renowned actor he is. From 'Over the Edge' in 1979, the award winning 'Drugstore Cowboy' and his recent role as the scarred cop in 'Crash', Dillon really has the ability to expose man's flaws and run to a bar with them.
The film is spliced from various Bukowski writings and follows Chinaski (his alter-ego) around town as he drinks from job to job occasionally taking time to get fired and get laid. Lily Taylor and Marisa Tomei play two of Chinaski's bed-pals with equal sleaze and conviction.
This is not your usual movie in terms of subject matter and execution. It takes a Norwegian director, committed actors and a fantastic performance from Dillon to pull off a story that really is as much a Homage to Bukowski but also a bold attempt to deliver something different, a word not regularly accepted in today's Hollywood run industry. (Hence some of the finance coming from Japan).
From our introduction to Chinaski's routines of getting work and drinking; then losing work and drinking to watching what is essentially a horrible man (his treatment of woman, his lack of respect for anything) we are never really meant to like him. So why do we? It isn't just the looks or square jaw of the lead (Bukowski was the complete opposite) or his fantastic humorous charm but what lies beneath those eyes. Dillon has always been able to make the jerk likable. In this case, we do because he's funny and because we get a tiny glimpse of background reasoning why this man is so talented and yet so flawed. (The real Bukowski suffered a tough childhood and Chinaski's family is only referenced to in a hilarious scene of steak and ass- you'll see what I mean ).
Bent Hamer has accomplished a feat pretty standard in European film-making traditions- light comedy with black undertones outside of the rules of the usual three part formation. This tale could have started anywhere and ended anywhere in this man's life as the selling point it simply having Dillon on screen as this character- that is the story.
Bukowski was a genius who stuck to his loose morality with his back to society. It should be noted that he held down jobs for long periods, one for 12 years while doing what he did best, drinking and gambling but the only time he truly engaged was when he was observing for his writings, looking for funding i.e. work or needed a female drink buddy. He later had works published, hung around with Sean Penn (also considered for the role) and U2 dedicated a song to him.
The cast and crew have created a delightful fresh film that is both funny and dark. The performances are as authentic as ever with a mention going to Lily Taylor's career best performance. This film is a Jack of all trades and seems to have mastered a new one with the tone and atmosphere set perfectly to mirror the down and dirty LA Bukowski became part of.
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