'Pain Hustlers' review: High on its own supply
Courtesy of Netflix
Conceived as a character driven drama about the opioid crisis ends up being anything but in David Yates’ ham-fisted “Pain Hustlers,” a generic “The Wolf of Wall Street” knock-off that has nothing new or meaningful to say about the epidemic. Especially as recent dramatizations “Dopesick,” and “Painkiller” already hit the nail on the head. Nevertheless, “Pain Hustlers” does have the added benefit of a decent Emily Blunt performance (and, er, Chris Evans leaning heavily into that Boston accent). Except, Blunt’s character, as this is one of those “inspired by true events” movies, isn’t real and is never fleshed out beyond her desperation for money and a better life. Something she tries manifesting early in the movie (“I will make my life count”), but the screenplay by Wells Tower doesn’t do her any favors.
She plays Liza Drake, a single mother who is working at a strip club when high-strung pharmaceutical executive Pete (Evans - sporting major frat boy energy) offers her a gig selling an addictive drug caked in fentanyl to doctors around the country. Towers and Yates put all their chips into this section of the story, like Drake wooing various prescribers with lavish gifts and retreats, that it forgets who this movie is about in the first place. At one point, we learn Liza’s daughter is going to need a major brain operation, but the movie handles it in such a hurried way, you could blink and miss its inclusion.
By losing the human element of the story, “Pain Hustlers” is forced to rely on vague corporate power dynamics and Evans trying to swing his big dick around to no avail. Evans can be funny when he needs to be (see “Not Another Teen Movie” or “Knives Out”), but his character is so listless and mediocre, all you can do is admire what he’s trying to pull from a character in desperate need of a reality check and a little less protein.
It makes the whole experience misguided and uneducated. It never picks a lane worth exploring. Raunchy? Unwavering? Unflinching? None of the above! It’s also not inventive enough to stand out from the aforementioned onslaught of content related to the crisis. You’re better off watching those shows where, at the very least, they understood the impact these drugs had on normal, unsuspecting patients. Flush this prescription down the toilet.
PAIN HUSTLERS streams on Netflix Friday, October 27th.