Sex, drugs and funky '70s rock 'n' roll drive this brutally beguiling walk on the wild side, directed by photographer turned director Larry Clark and based on the novel by ex-con Eddie Little. Seductive guttersnipes Bobbie and Rosie (Vincent Kartheiser,
Natasha Gregson Wagner) live for each other and heroin; they support the serious habits they're developing through inept petty thievery. Stylish Mel and Sid (James Woods, Melanie Griffith) are lifelong junkies and professional operators: stealing, selling dope, running scams... you name it,
they've gotten away with it. Fate brings the couples together into a makeshift, dysfunctional family: Bobbie and Rosie, the products of violent, fractured homes, secretly long for benevolent parents. Sid sees in them the children she can't have, and Mel seems willing to play papa for her sake. The
quartet tools around in Mel's big-ass Cadillac El Dorado, doping and stealing and sneering at the jerks working for chump change, until the bubble bursts in the inevitable bloody debacle. There's more than a little DRUGSTORE COWBOY vibe here, but what makes Clark's picture more than just another
exploitative slice of sleaze is his phenomenal cast. The youngsters are compelling, though a lot of that is sheer youth and physical vulnerability. But Griffith and Woods are mesmerizing as the older couple, all outlaw glamour and lowlife sophistication: You can see right through to the physical
and moral rot underneath, but at the same time you can see how two kids who aren't as street-smart as they think they are would be dazzled. The same pornographic prurience that permeates Clark's KIDS (and his photography) is sporadically in evidence here, but the strength of Griffith and Woods'
performances shifts the focus off the youngsters onto the complex web of relationships that bind the quartet together. The film's focus is small and mean, but it's dazzling nonetheless.
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