Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

“I was once a shameless full-time dope fiend.” In his preface to Junky, William S. Burroughs states: “I have learned the junk equation. Junk is not, like alcohol or weed, a means to increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life.” Set in Portland, Oregon, in 1971, Drugstore Cowboy is a realistic, unsparing look at the world of small-time junkies. Most importantly, the film is totally nonjudgmental – a slap in the face of the bogus war on drugs. We are informed right off the bat that a junkie strives to escape the “pressures of life, like having to tie your shoes.” The film was based on an autobiographical novel written by James Fogle (1936-2012), who had served time for robbery and parole violation in the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla. The solid cast includes Matt Dillon (Bob), Kelly Lynch (Dianne), James Remar (Gentry), James Le Gros (Rick) and Heather Graham (Nadine). All Bob cares about is the next score, much to the chagrin of Dianne, who actually wants to get laid and is rather frustrated. The crew spends all of their time eking out a barren existence in a series of sleazy motel rooms, popping pills, breaking into drugstores and spouting out philosophical lines like: “Fate sucks. I swear.” By the end, Bob attempts to turn things around and do some “straight time” but he can’t escape his sordid past. Burroughs himself appears in a cameo as “Old Tom, the Junkie Priest,” looking like the Grim Reaper himself and delivering some classic lines such as: “In the future, right wingers will use drug hysteria to set up an international police apparatus.” Useless Trivia: The roles of Bob and Dianne were reportedly offered to Bob Dylan and Patti Smith!

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