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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Pharmaceutical Roundup

Drugstore Cowboy (1989) on IMDb

Plot Overview

“Drugstore Cowboy” opens in 1971 Oregon with Bob Hughes (Matt Dillon) lying flat on his back on a gurney and narrating from his prone position: “I was once a full time dope fiend. Me, I'm Bob. Me and my crew robbed drug­stores. It's hard being a dope fiend, and it's even harder running a crew. Dianne [Kelly Lynch] was my wife. I love her. Man, did she love dope, so we made a good couple. Rick [James Le Gros] was my side­kick, my muscle ... Nadine [Heather Graham] was Rick's old lady, a counter girl. We played a game you couldn't win ...”

After a bit of philosophizing, we follow them on a rush job, their hasty extraction (“Now, every­body act cool like we just got back from church”), shooting up (“Put a Little Love in Your Heart”), burying their stash, being hassled by the cops with officer Gentry (James Remar), changing hide­outs, getting advice (“dope fiend of a son and nympho­maniac wife”) from Bob's mother (Grace Zabriskie), a dangerous score (“Care­ful with this stuff, it'll kill ya”), a turn for the worse (“She's dead”), and an attempt by Bob to change his life around on Nixon's methadone program—but he still has the same bad influences on him.


We have before us a sinful lifestyle in graphic detail. It's a dead end endeavor based on serial robberies. (Prov. 21:7) “The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment.” It's a gross life­style contrasted to the mom's who seems decent. (Prov. 21:8) “The way of man is froward and strange: but as for the pure, his work is right.” The mom wants her son to turn his life around. Their crew is involved in a murder—albeit an unwitting one (“She left us with an OD'd stiff which is paramount to a murder beef in this state.”) They practice the sorcery of chemical highs and super­stitious hexes. Rick and Nadine live in fornication. And they all get their living from thievery. (Rev. 9:21) “Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.” Bob's one hope is his implied religious upbringing intimated in the repeated back­ground song: Desmond Dekker's “The Israelite.”

Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir
So that every mouth can be fed
Poor me, Israelites. Aah

My wife and my kids, they packed up and leave me
Darling, she said, “I was yours to be seen”
Poor me, the Israelite

Shirt them a–tear up, trousers are gone
I don't want to end up like Bonnie and Clyde
Poor me, the Israelite

He'll want to get straight, get a job, keep his wife if he can (“You don't ever change do you, Dianne?”), and avoid arrest. The hope comes from a vague history as an altar boy, staying at the St. Francis Hotel, reconnecting with a faded priest, a glowing statue of the Virgin in his home, a mom who is inclined towards her faith, a furtive beginning of the sign of the cross when he buries the body, and a stuttered prayer when he's in trouble: “God, please have pity on me.” If he can get saved, and stay that way, he'll have the heavenly benefits, (Ephesians 5:18) “And be not drunk with wine, where­in is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” His converted life is of inestimable value, worth giving up the old. (Matt. 13:45-46) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”

Production Values

This dark movie, “Drugstore Cowboy” (1989) was directed by Gus Van Sant Jr. who with William S. Burroughs and Daniel Yost, wrote the screen­play based on James Fogle's then unpublished novel, Drugstore Cowboy. It stars Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James Le Gros, and Heather Graham. Matt Dillon gave a fine performance, and the supporting cast backed him up just swell. William S. Burroughs as a faded priest is memorable in his look, deportment, and dialog.

This film was rated R. The background music is suitably period. The editing is unobtrusive; it just follows the action. In tone it's a Film Noir in shades of green as befits the Pacific North­west. It was filmed at Beacon Rock and Portland, Oregon, USA with recognizable landmarks. The director is known for being gay, arty & edgy, and this film continues the type. In it there's a cute dog Panda (Woody) to provide some brief relief.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Here is not a feel-good movie unless one gets off on redemption. The lifestyle is seedy, most unglamorous. Some of the music has a stick-to-it-iveness, though, easy to hum along to. The needle shots made me wince. Never­the­less, it's a well-made flick worth seeing if it reflects your cinema­graphic tastes.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Special effects: Well done special effects. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: three and a half stars out of five.