If you want a good picture about junkies this is it. This is not a western like you may think it is the story of Matt Dillon, his lady and another couple who travel the Pacific Northwest region knocking down drugstores to score various pharmaceuticals. As someone who has known these type of people I can GUARANTEE you they do not have prescriptions for these items. They are addicts.
What I like about this one in my opinion is that it is an anti drug movie that doesn’t stack the deck. It makes it clear that drugs are fun when you are doing them, they make the world happy and the cowboy lifestyle as they call it is exciting. So then after being honest it goes on to deal with the negative side.
Most movies would depict these folks as scum but here they are real people, and this is how they live. They are a family and the picture even starts with clips from their home movies. This is also a Mary Poppins type deal where the head of the household is a bit too into his job. He is so dependant on medicinal pleasure that he loses all sense of priorities – he doesn’t even want to get laid. His lady is taking her top off and he gets nervous and starts rattling on about a hospital he wants to rob. And that’s when you know this guy is a fucking addict.
They aren’t only addicted to the drugs, but also to the hunt. And the robbery scenes are thrilling to watch. This dude also plays some clever tricks, and it’s real funny when he gets the cops that have him on surveillance to think his neighbor is an accomplice, and gets his neighbor to think the cops are peeping toms. The cops watch the neighbor with binoculars and they have typical hot-shit-movie-cop dialogue: “I wonder what’s in the bag?” “The only thing I know for sure is that it’s not his god damned lunch.”
But it is.
I believe this is inspired by somebody’s memoirs, and it has a very true to life feel. When Matt has a dead body in the hotel room, he is asked to check out to make room for a sherriff’s convention. And don’t you just know that would happen to you too? I mean that’s the way life throws it at you. If he was smuggling rare south american black market beetles I’m sure it would be an exterminator’s convention, but it was a dead body so it was sherriffs.
Later in the movie William S. Burroughs has a small role as an addict priest named Father Murphy. And it is good to see him. That is a brilliant man have you ever read Naked Lunch? I gotta be honest I don’t know WHAT the fuck he’s talking about 90% of the time and I could REALLY do without all this bugmen fucking a little boy shit but there is some very clever and fucked up shit in there as well. I think “junkies christmas” from Interzone is a holiday classic and to be frankly honest my own nutmeg story is kind of a ripoff of it, although it is a 100% true story.
Anyway Burroughs is great on film because he is creepy as hell. I mean you probaly remember what he looked like when he was old, like a hunched over mummified birdman or something. And he talks in this slllllooooowwwwwww creaky croaky voice and good god the man is scary but he also reminds you of an old man next door who tells you really good war stories.
The filmatic work here is real good from a director named Gus Van Sant Jr. What it is is he has very good abstract visual ways of depicting a high. He has a lot of fetishistic closeups while they prepare their drugs and later, when Matt goes to a methadone clinic, he shoots the boiling water and tea bag the same way. The camera work alone gives you an idea of Matt’s yearning to get high.
Well hell man all I’m trying to say is it’s a good movie, if you haven’t seen it I guess that’s your problem isn’t it but I’m just saying you should watch it is all. thanks
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.