The deadpan comic buzz you get from Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy is practically narcotic. The movie heightens your senses and mildly anaesthetizes them at the same time, like a potent mixture of stimulants and depressants. One of the most invigoratingly original American comedies since Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise, Drugstore Cowboy follows druggie, irregular rhythms all its own. Whether in a heavy-lidded daze or wired with giddy, post-high paranoia, Drugstore Cowboy displays an uncanny alertness to detail and texture — yellow-white bus headlights that barely penetrate the slate-grey, late-afternoon gloom on a rain-drenched north-western road; the surreal surge of blood into a hypodermic syringe as it enters a vein in intensified close-up… But the film’s vibrant aliveness to such minute sensations is submerged beneath a cold, clammy complexion: the blue-grey pallor of a day-old corpse.
Set under the oppressive, overcast skies of Portland, Oregon, in 1971, Drugstore Cowboy boldly stakes out a piece of cinematic fringe territory, as seemingly remote as the chilly little corner of the world in which this dead-end road movie takes place. In a late-’80s America obsessed with winners, and a contemporary climate of anti-drug sentiment verging on hysteria, Van Sant has made a devastatingly funny, melancholy but unromanticized picture about a bedraggled band of doped-up losers — with no apologies to (or excuses for) anybody. It’s a shame you even feel the need to mention that this isn’t a revisionist anti-drug tract, or a seductive glamorization of narcotics use/abuse. That much ought to be as apparent as it is irrelevant to what this movie’s up to.
Language(s):English,Dual Audio – Commentary with director and Matt Dillon