“Drugstore Cowboy” is an offbeat road movie about junkies who stage elaborate heists on pharmacy’s and hospitals looking for drugs of almost any kind. It is a hypnotic look at the drug culture of the 1970’s. It is also one of Gus Van Sant’s first films and the one that really launched his career.
Matt Dillon gives probably his best performance as a drug addict who hides under a very charismatic persona. He is a pretty smooth operator who plans these elaborate robberies as well as talking his way around police interference as well.
He runs with a crew of slightly more pathetic drug abusers who are lost in this life style of crime and drugs. Each day brings new challenges until one day Dillon decides to go in to rehab and attempt to clean himself up, much to the dismay of his girlfriend who thinks she loves the lifestyle.
I think what really drew me in was the individual moments in this film. For example there is a disturbing moment when one of them dies and there is much discussion on what to do with the corpse but not a lot of respect for the corpse itself. We truly see how detached from human life they have become when they casually hide the body in the ceiling of the motel they are staying in. More concerning is the police convention that rolls in to town during their stay.
There is not much of a story to follow in this film but it is not really about a plot. It is a series of moments showing these characters as they descend further and further in to the life of a pathetic addict. Only one of them has the sight to see outside the box they are in and do something about it.