Bob (Dillon), his wife Dianne (Lynch), Rich (Le Gros) and Nadine (Graham) are junkies who survive by robbing pharmacies in Portland, Oregon, in 1971. The natural leader of the gang, Bob decides they had better leave town after one too many scrapes with the law. It's Bob, too, who finally elects to straighten out after one of their number ODs. Though hardly earth-shakingly original, Van Sant's low-budget movie takes a cool, contemplative and sometimes comic look at American drug-culture, manages for the most part to dispense with easy moralising, and comes close to grasping why the addiction to chemicals of every kind ('A dope fiend always knows how he's gonna feel'). Despite some Coppola-esque touches with speeding clouds, the stark simplicity of Bob's fantasies suitably complements the overall gritty realism. But it's the acting that carries the day: Dillon's wildly obsessive and sporadically articulate Bob avoids the usual bratpack mannerisms, Remar makes a plausibly boorish cop, and William Burroughs brings a raddled, fragile integrity to the role of a junkie ex-priest Bob meets at a detox hostel.