Matt Dillon has become one of my favorite actors and it all started with watching The Outsiders for the second time. I was also familiar with his acting via Crash-for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award-and There’s Something About Mary, but I wanted to learn more about this actor who has flown under the radar the past few years.
First I went to Wikipedia and took a look at the actor’s page. I scanned his extensive filmography (Dillon has been acting since he was a teenager) and there were a lot of films that caught my eye. After reading about them, I decided to have a mini Matt Dillon movie marathon. So here are the fruits of my labor in the form of a list of six of the actor’s films that flew under the radar that fans should watch.
1. The Outsiders (1983)
Based on my favorite books, this is one of my favorite films. As I said earlier, this was my introduction to Matt Dillon. His performance as Dallas Winston is one of the highlights of the film. The turning point for his character was Johnny Cade’s death. The profound effect it has on Dally and how he reacts to it, is my favorite part of the film. Dillon’s performance will definitely make you fall in love with Dallas Winston.
2. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Dillon plays Bob Hughes the leader of a crew of drug addicts who travel across the Pacific Northwest in 1971. They support their habit by robbing pharmacies and hospitals of their drug holdings. During the crew’s travels, tragedy hits which scares Bob. He decides to try going straight but soon learns that’s easier said than done.
This film features one of Dillon’s best performances in his career. He receive critical acclaim and also won the Independent Spirit Award for his performance. The film itself was received very well by critics and viewers alike for its real, gritty, and honest portrayal of drug addiction.
I finally sat down to watch this and I wasn’t disappointed. This film was real, gritty and honest in every way. Dillon and the entire cast which included William S. Burroughs gave brilliant performances.
3. Albino Alligator (1997) Netflix
Many times throughout his career, Dillon has played characters who are bad boys and that’s the case with this film. Dillion plays Dova the leader of a gang of thieves who find themselves cornered in a bar surrounded by the police who’ve believe that the group is the man that the cops have been after for sometime.
The film is a little long but I still enjoyed it. There’s a lot of tension as Dova struggles to keep order amongst his hostages-who try to disrupt the thieves any chance they get-and between his brother Milo-played by Gary Sinise-who wants to do the right thing and their comrade-played by William Fichtner who’s ironically named Law-who wants to go ballistic.4. Factotum (2005) Netflix
Dillon plays Hank Chinaski, the fictional alter-ego from the novel of the same name by author Charles Bukowski. He wanders around Los Angeles attempting to live off jobs and find one which won’t interfere with his main love writing. Throughout his journey, Chinaski deals with women, drinking, and gambling.
Dillon’s performance was definitely on point. The connection his character has with co-star Marisa Tomei’s character is a strong one. They’re both alcoholics trying to get through life and in finding each other they attempt to make some type of life.
5. Pawn Shop Chronicles (2013)
I enjoy watching weird films and this one doesn’t disappoint. It features three stories all overlapping in some way with each other and all involve items from a pawn shop. The first story deals with two meth addicted white supremacists (one is the late Paul Walker) who plan to rob their meth dealer (a masked Norman Reedus). The third story features Brendan Fraser as a struggling Elvis Impersonator who comes into town for a low-paying gig. The second story, however, has Matt Dillon portraying a newlywed man whose past comes back to haunt him.
Dillon plays Richard a honeymooner who upon entering the pawn shop sees his missing first wife’s wedding ring. Abruptly leaving his new wife, he begins to search around town for the first leading to violent altercations including one with Elijah Wood who plays yet another sicko character name Johnny Shaw. Richard’s interaction with Johnny leads to a disturbing conclusion and it might rub some viewers the wrong way.
This was an interesting film and Dillon did a marvelous job portraying a character who’s been pushed over the edge.
6. Sunlight Jr. (2013)
Out all the films I watched, this was my second favorite. The films tells the realistic story about a struggling Florida couple who are trapped in a generational cycle of poverty. Naomi Watts plays Melissa a convenience store employee who works at a store called Sunlight Jr. where she’s sexually harassed by her boss and stalked on a daily basis by her ex Justin played by Norman Reedus.
Her boyfriend Richie is played by Dillon. Richie is a former construction worker who as a result of an accident is confined to a wheelchair. He collects disability checks and fixes VCR’s, TV’s and other electric objects to make a few extra bucks.Richie and Melissa are in love and when she becomes pregnant they decide to get married, but things began to get worse for the couple.
Melissa loses her job and they’re evicted from the motel and are forced to temporarily stay at Melissa’s mother’s house. The couple faces a grim reality and they face difficult choices about life and their relationship. Dillon does a great job and the film is both wonderful and depressing. It doesn’t stray from the reality that many people in real life deal with on a daily basis.
Though these films flew under the radar, they tell compelling stories in which Matt Dillon portrays well developed characters who are complex and realistic. In addition to these six films, I found five more which caught my eye that you should add to the list:
1. Over the Edge (1979)
This was Dillon’s first film and also a coming of age movie. Dillon was 14 years old and was discovered by director Jonathan Kaplan and Jane Bernstein when he was cutting class. Dillon auditioned for a role in the film and the rest is history.
2. A Kiss Before Dying (1991)
Chicago Sun-Times film critic the late Roger Ebert praised Dillon's work, writing, "This is Matt Dillon's first film since Drugstore Cowboy, and demonstrates again that he is one of the best actors working in movies. He possesses the secret of not giving too much, of not trying so hard that we're distracted by his performance...”
3. Singles (1992)
A romantic comedy, Dillon plays Cliff, “an aspiring, yet slightly aloof rock musician of the fictional grunge/rock band Citizen Dic.” The film was also credited with inspiring the wave of films targeted at the Generation X audience.
4. Employee of the Month (2004)
This isn’t the Dane Cook and Jessica Simpson movie by the way. This is the dark comedy, in which Dillon plays a bank employee who has a bad day. From being fired from his dream job and getting dumped by his fiance’ things get awry from there with lots of twists and turns.
5. Bad Country (2014)
Also known as Whiskey Bay, the film also stars Willem Dafoe, Amy Smart, and Tom Berenger. Dillo plays contract killer Jesse Weiland who turns informant for the Baton Rouge police. However his secret is revealed and he and police detective Bud Carter (Dafoe) team up to take Weiland’s former employers down.