Drugstore Cowboy is a 1989 American crime drama film directed by the American filmmaker Gus Van Sant. Written by Van Sant and Daniel Yost, and based on an autobiographical novel by James Fogle, the film stars Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, Heather Graham and William S. Burroughs. It was Van Sant's second film as director.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gus Van Sant|
|Produced by||Karen Murphy|
|Screenplay by||Gus Van Sant|
|Based on||Drugstore Cowboy|
by James Fogle
|Music by||Elliot Goldenthal|
|Edited by||Mary Bauer|
|Distributed by||International Video Entertainment|
|Box office||$4.7 million|
At the time the film was made, the source novel by Fogle was unpublished. It was later published in 1990, by which time Fogle had been released from prison. Fogle, like the characters in his story, was a long-time drug user and dealer.
The film was a critical success and currently holds a 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 8/10 based on 27 reviews.
In 1971, Bob Hughes leads a crew of drug addicts—his wife Dianne, his best friend Rick, and Rick's teenage girlfriend Nadine—traveling across the Pacific Northwest and robbing pharmacies and hospitals to support their habits.
After robbing a Portland, Oregon, pharmacy, they return home to get high, and are visited by David, a local low-life seeking hard-to-find dilaudid. Bob claims they have none but offers to trade him morphine for speed. Initially reluctant, David is persuaded to trade and leaves. The police, led by Detective Gentry, who assumes the group is responsible for the pharmacy robbery, bust down the door and wreck the apartment in an unsuccessful search for the stolen drugs, which the group have buried outside.
They move to another apartment and Bob plans an elaborate scheme, resulting in one of the policemen being mistaken for a peeper by a neighbor and shot. The next day, a furious Gentry assaults Bob. Believing a hex has been brought upon them, the group goes "crossroading", and robs a drugstore via an open transom. They find their haul includes vials of pure powdered dilaudid worth thousands of dollars each. Bob, declaring, "When you're hot, you're hot," convinces Dianne he should rob a hospital.
During the robbery, Bob is almost captured and the group returns to their motel to find Nadine has fatally overdosed on a bottle of dilaudid. She has also put the "worst of all hexes" on them by leaving a hat on the bed. After temporarily storing Nadine's body in the motel's attic, they are alerted by the motel manager that their room was previously booked for a sheriff convention and they must check out. Bob, suffering tremendous anxiety and stress-induced visions of handcuffs and prison, sneaks the body out of the motel in a garment bag. Before burying Nadine in a forest, Bob tells Dianne that he is going to get clean and begin a 21-day methadone treatment program. Shocked by Bob's decision, Dianne refuses to join him.
Bob moves into a long-stay motel in Portland and gets a low-level manufacturing job. At the methadone clinic, he meets an elderly drug-addicted priest named Tom, and reminisces about the old days when drugs were not so demonized. Bob is visited by Gentry, who warns him that the policeman who was shot has been making threats against Bob. Bob later runs into David, who is bullying a kid who supposedly owes David money. Bob stops David and lets the kid escape, much to David's disgust.
Dianne also visits, now in a relationship with Rick, the group’s new leader. Dianne asks Bob what happened on the road to make him change his life, and he answers that Nadine's death, the hex she put on them, and the possibility of serious prison time contributed to his decision. He reveals a deal he made with a higher power: if he could get Nadine's body out of the motel, past the cops, and into the ground, he would straighten out his life.
He suggests Dianne stay the night with him, but she declines, and gives Bob a package of drugs before leaving. Bob gives the drugs to Tom. Returning to his room, Bob is attacked by two masked figures, one of whom is David, thinking Bob must have drugs. Bob tells them that he is clean, but David does not believe him and shoots him. A neighbor phones for help, and Bob is loaded onto an ambulance. Asked who shot him, Bob tells Gentry it was "the hat" and "the TV baby".
Riding in the ambulance, Bob considers his situation, and realizes that no matter how hard he tries, he can never escape the drug life, joking that he now has a free ticket to the "fattest pharmacy in town".
Tom Waits was Van Sant's first choice to play the lead although the finance company would not support Van Sant if he had cast him. Officially the reason given was that Waits was appearing in another movie they were financing although Van Sant has said he suspected the Oscar win of Kiss of the Spider Woman, a film they had also financed, had made them want a lead who could win an Oscar.
Drugstore Cowboy was filmed mainly around Portland, Oregon, including in an area in the Pearl District that used to be a railyard, with a viaduct going over it. The Lovejoy Columns, which formerly held up the viaduct and feature outsider artwork, are featured in the movie.
|Drugstore Cowboy: Selections From the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Elliot Goldenthal chronology|
The soundtrack includes songs that are contemporaneous with the film's setting, along with original music by Elliot Goldenthal. It is one of his earliest works; in it he does not use an orchestra but a whole range of instruments treated in a synthesizer. The score and soundtrack were also the first that Goldenthal worked on with Richard Martinez, a music producer whose "computer expertise and sound production assistance" became the basis for frequent subsequent collaborations. AllMusic rated this soundtrack three stars out of five.
- Side one
- "For All We Know" (4:58) – Abbey Lincoln
- "Little Things" (2:25) – Bobby Goldsboro
- "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" (2:38) – Jackie DeShannon
- "Psychotic Reaction" (3:06) – Count Five
- "Judy in Disguise" (2:56) – John Fred & His Playboy Band
- "The Israelites" (2:47) – Desmond Dekker & The Aces
- Side two
- "Yesterday's Jones" (0:45)
- "Morpheus Ascending" (1:17)
- "Monkey Frenzy" (2:20)
- "Wonder Waltz" (1:19)
- "White Gardenia" (1:54)
- "The Floating Hex" (1:37)
- "Mr. F. Wadd" (1:02)
- "Elegy Mirror" (0:48)
- "Panda the Dog" (0:51)
- "Heist and Hat" (1:36)
- "Strategy Song" (2:04)
- "Bob's New Life" (2:48)
- "Clockworks" (0:32)
- "Cage Iron" (1:03)
- "Goodnight Nadine" (1:28)
The film was very well received critically and is listed on the Top Ten lists of both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, for films released in 1989. It holds a rare 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 8.04/10 based on 27 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Drugstore Cowboy takes us into a violent, transient world with cool, contemplative style". Review aggregator Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 82 based on 15 reviews, indicating "Universal Acclaim".
Drugstore Cowboy won the following awards:
- L.A. Film Critics Association (1989) — Best Screenplay (Dan Yost, Gus Van Sant)
- National Society of Film Critics (1989) — Best Film, Best Director
- Independent Spirit Award (1989) — Best Male Lead (Matt Dillon), Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Male (Max Perlich), Best Supporting Female (Heather Graham)
- New York Film Critics Circle (1989) — Best Screenplay
- "Drugstore Cowboy". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 2, 2012.
- ISBN 0-385-30224-X "Drugstore Cowboy".
- Bernstein, Paula. "Gus Van Sant: On Working with William S. Burroughs and the Evolution of Indie Film".
- "Filming Locations for Drugstore Cowboy". miskoviec.com. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
- "Lovejoy Lost". Oregon Department of Kick Ass: The Work of Vanessa Renwick. Archived from the original on May 13, 2014. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
- "Review of Drugstore Cowboy Original Soundtrack". Allmusic. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
- "Drugstore Cowboy (1989)". Music from the Movies. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
- Thomas Staudter (March 23, 2003). "...and the Music for Frida, Produced in a Scarsdale Basement". The New York Times. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
- "Drugstore Cowboy (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
- "Drugstore Cowboy (1989)". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
- "15TH ANNUAL LOS ANGELES FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION AWARDS". www.lafca.net. Archived from the original on October 13, 2015. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
- "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. December 19, 2009. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
- "Ahead Of Its Time: Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy". hollywoodsuite.ca. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
- "Critics Circle Selects 'Left Foot' for Best Film and Actor". The New York Times. December 19, 1989. Retrieved July 6, 2018.