The fentanyl crisis is having a huge impact on the USA at present. In fact, as a fourth wave hits the country more people are dying than ever before. In 2021, it took over 100,000 lives, and this year that number could be surpassed.
Naturally, it’s an issue that’s in the news every day, and it’s no real surprise to see that the drug addiction crisis is finding its way onto the silver screen and streaming platforms too.
Dopesick is one of the more notable to do that, a scripted drama that has picked up multiple awards and enjoyed a good reception from the critics in its portrayal of the crisis, how it’s affecting people and the legal complications around the pharmaceutical companies in the middle of various scandals.
However, when Netflix released Pain Hustlers recently, it brought a lot more intrigue. Not because it’s another crime drama, but because it’s almost a comedy crime drama.
Is that ok?
Hundreds of thousands of people are dying. Now.
So I watched on. Watched the entire 123 minutes of the Chris Evans and Emily Blunt picture. And feelings were mixed, much like the reviews.
There is humour within the film. And it works well, in a shock factor kind of way, but then there’s the story itself. Without wanting to give away spoilers, it almost glorifies the characters behind the pharmaceutical company that the movie is based around. Which is perhaps a little tone deaf in today’s society, even when they do get their comeuppance.
We should add that the pharmaceutical company in question is fictionalised. It’s not based upon the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma like Dopesick and Painkiller, but rather a start-up, who introduce the hard sell to get their company off the ground.
Selling to anyone and everyone, it is perhaps a realistic depiction of how the opioid crisis has got so out of hand. However, the movie makes it almost seem fun.
There’s just a real feeling that Pain Hustlers is slightly misjudged. It’s a Hollywood storytelling version of the fentanyl crisis that perhaps should be for a period when the USA, and perhaps even western world has slowed the damage that opioids are causing to so many people.
I get that it’s important to highlight an issue, and film can play a huge part of that. But this film isn’t particularly shocking, it doesn’t tell the stories of real people in a way that would make us sit up and take note. It’s just all a bit meh, during a period where the real story is much more vital to be aware of than the Hollywood version of it.