On first look, Matt Dillon would seem too clean-cut to play booze-fueled Charles Bukowski’s alter ego, Henry Chinaski, in Bent Hamer’s adaptation of the author’s job-hopping ramble. But given time, Dillon makes the role his own, being more Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces than Mickey Rourke in Barfly. What’s to know about Chinaski? He’s a disgruntled alcoholic with a drive to write and a penchant for debauchery. As a result he can’t hold a job — or a woman (Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei taking brave chances). It’s a depraved odyssey, but Hamer (who also wrote the script) echoes Bukowski’s gift for finding caustic humor in wayward banality. His depiction of how Chinaski uses tongue-in-cheek badinage about being a serial killer as a form of foreplay is spot-on Bukowski. The entire production hangs on Dillon, but he’s up to the task, serving up Hank’s heart with bottom-of-the-barrel bravado.
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