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Perverse as it might seem, I can't help noticing that the guy has really hairy arms. Despite Matt Dillon‘s sumptuous brow line, the absorbing brown eyes and sculpted checkbones, together a conspiracy confirming this young man‘s face as genuine movie icon material, my eyes drop down wards. Even if Freud never had a term for forearm hair envy, the 25 year-old across the table is one sexy kid.

In his time though, that‘s just about all audiences and critics have noticed about the Irish-American native New Yorker. He's still best known for Francis Coppola‘s early Eighties adaptations of teen writer S.E. Hinton's Rumblefish and The Outsiders, but even then it was always Dillon‘s facility for looking fuckable in a headband and vest than any momentous thespian ability that grabbed the attention. All this could be about to change, however, as Matt‘s back from the past few years‘ battery of turkeys with a performance that’s not only his best ever, but one haunting enough to silence all the detractors who wrote

Matt Dillon is a hunk of prime beef, but to date his movies have been turkeys. With the release of Drugstore Cowboy, the hick of the flicks shows he can act as well as pout. Trevor Johnston grills him on drugs and drools over his unplucked arms.

him off as an eyebrows-plus-mumble method poseur.

In Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy it is 1970 in Portland Oregon and Dillon is Bob Hughes, leader of a small band ofelite junkies who get almost as much of a buzz out of robbing chemists’ shops as they do from the morphine and dilaudid they steal from inside. The film‘s first half paints Bob and his wife Dianne, played by Kelly Lynch (lately the bimbo doctor in the Swayze schlockfest Roadhouse), as a latterday Bonnie and Clyde on a euphoric crime spree. Yet it's not long before a combination of hassle from the law and growing tensions among the group leads to an unforseen tragedy that precipitates both the couple‘s break-up and Dillon‘s efforts to get rid of his habit.

In this he is hardly aided by the scene-stealing presence of one William S. Burroughs as an elderly junkie priest making a last ditch effort to drive our hero off the rails again.

Complete with hallucinatory visions of flying cows, Drugstore Cowboy has created a stir amidst the escalating US drug problem for honestly depicting the theft and consumption of hard narcotics as an engaging and alluring pastime. Director Van Sant, whose first feature was the grainy gay romance Mala Noche, recalls that casting Dillon in the lead suddenly made his low-budget ($3 million) Oregon movie a somewhat hotter property ‘because he‘s someone with a following, someone the kids relate to. And when you have him as a

junkie that’s very difficult.’

For his part, Dillon's estimation of the film’s artistic integrity epitomises the belief that everyone concerned seems to have brought to the project. ‘You can't address the miserable lifestyle of an addict without recognising the fact that people do enjoy feeling high, that they enjoy that escape,’ he gesticulates, eyes concentrated on the tablecloth. ‘Hopefully that‘s what Drugstore Cowboy does. But it‘s not something movie-makers are prepared to look at too often.‘

Not alone in regarding Bob Hughes as his best role, Dillon‘s assessment ia that ‘the character is strong because he changes and evolves, something that an actor always looks for’. Catching the vapid smirk of the junkie basking in bleary post-hit languor as much as the single-minded scramble towards the next spike, Dillon at the same time makes Bob a slightly distanced goof, almost a cool jerk. Watch his glance of Who me? incredulity as Ms Lynch. fed up with all the conjugal attention

going to the dope, takes matters into

8 The List 26 January - 8 February 1990