Pain Hustlers | Review by: Benjamin Garrett
The North American opioid crisis is a very real, very serious problem. Naturally over the years, Hollywood has taken several runs at shedding light on the issue through film and television. Pain Hustlers is the latest movie to tackle the story, with a glossy and misguided, albeit mildly insightful look at the pharmaceutical reps at the centre of it all.
There are so many fascinating angles a film could take when approaching this subject. “Pill pusher with a conscious” is among the least interesting options, and sadly that’s the route Pain Hustlers takes. It’s interesting to see the plot unfold initially as somewhat of an underdog story, before transforming into something much darker. However, this approach doesn’t really allow us to dig deep into the actual issues surrounding the epidemic.
Director David Yates is best known for helming the last four Harry Potter films, as well as the Fantastic Beasts movies. It truly seems like not having an established IP got the better of him here. The tone is confused, shifting frequently between light and punchy, and dramatic. The bigger problems are the stylistic and editing choices, though. Voiceover narration, faux black and white interviews, artsy character cutaways - There are several contrasting visual storytelling methods, none which are used frequently enough to leave an impact.
Emily Blunt is a charismatic lead, carrying so much of this film on her shoulders. Her dynamic with Chris Evans gives us several entertaining scenes, and even with the formulaic, surface level plot, their energy makes it worthwhile. Andy Garcia’s performance deserves a lot of praise as well, even if his character does boil down to the generic “villain” in this story. Although the movie tries its damndest to get you to empathize with Blunt’s character, it’s hard to ignore her complicity as a scummy drug rep.
Pain Hustlers is a superficial take on a very real issue. It scrapes by on the talents of its charismatic cast, but in comparison to other films and television series about the opioid crisis, it feels a bit like a placebo.
Review by: Benjamin Garrett
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