Bent Hamer's deadpan adaptation of the Charles Bukowski novel has an appealing listnessness, but it begs the question: Is there anything left to learn from this material? The man who made an art of debauchery and a romance of the picaresque had few other subjects, and there's not much new in his alter ego's endless cycle of drink, cigarettes, sex, and fiction. As Hank Chinaski, Matt Dillon adopts a Brando brow and hang-dog eyes, then thrusts his lower lip into his upper one to create Bukowski's salmon frown. The pose captures the author's apathetic bemusement with humor and grace, but to what end? He gets a job, loses it, drinks, writes, fucks, and then repeats the cycle. Nor is there much redemption in Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei, playing women sinking on the same ship as Chinaski. Taylor's sweetness bubbles up into a fine performance, extravagantly depraved, and Tomei surprises with a rich take on a woman who is neither young nor coy. But none of it goes anywhere. It's just stylized alcoholism with a tired wink.
Director: Bent Hamer
Writer: Charles Bukowski and Bent Hamer
Producer: Bent Hamer and Jim Stark
Cast: Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, Marisa Tomei, Fisher Stevens, Didier Flamand, Adrienne Shelly, Karen Young, Tony Lyons, Jim Brockhohn and Chris Carlson