Drugstore Cowboy


Gus Van Sant directed “Drugstore Cowboy, a film starring Matt Damon as the lead cowboy Bob, traveling to different pit-stop drugstores and playing some act with his girlfriend Dianne, played by Kelly Lynch, and a young thief Rick and his girlfriend,  Nadine. Their acts go from faking a stroke and Bob ducking behind the counter, gathering pill bottles, and sneaking out the backdoor, to hospital sabotage by driving in circles in the parking lot; yet, with patients in need in a hospital, I doubt the whole staff would make a mob in the front parking lot. Nevertheless, the film packs a heavy punch, emotionally and demographically; we are shown actions on drugs, and then after drugs are gone, and the contrast is mammoth.

Matt Dillon sizzles across the screen, emphatically shouting to his “family” of four, explaining why he doesn’t like certain things and so on. His attitude and posture as ‘leader’ is reminiscent of that old film character Alex DeLarge from Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”. Demanding and opportunistic, Bob ignores emotion and thinks straight towards the next possible drugstore hit. But this high, in the later second half of the film, suddenly dies when a cop-convention is being held at his hotel, and he kicks into sobriety. He gets a poor reaction from Dianne, who cannot and will not just stop using drugs. He leaves the crew, like Alex going to prison, and starts a new life as a driller of manhole at a meager factory; but to much suprise, he likes it.

Bob also starts talking to Tom The Priest, played perfectly by Naked Lunch author William S. Burrough’s, who is in the same methadone program. Dressed in black, and with the hoarse and dragging monotone of Burrough’s voice, the priest is a cameo that brightens the film, shadily producing laughs; but they are not cruel laughs. Tom The Priest utters about the problems about anti-drugs in society, and Bob follows with, “I think you missed your calling. You shouldn’t have been a priest, you should have been a philosopher”.  Did this little piece of dialogue count as payment for Burrough’s, who is undoubtedly playing a form of himself.

The film, like Carlito’s way, shows how once you are in the drug game, it’s not just the drugs that kill you, but the people associated with them also. It’s realistic and existential, a drug-depiction film that ranks high with Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for A Dream and Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting.

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