Pain Hustlers (2023)

Pain Hustlers (2023)

2023 R 122 Minutes

Drama | Crime

After losing her job, a single mom falls into a lucrative but ultimately dangerous scheme selling prescription drugs.

Overall Rating

5 / 10
Verdict: So-So

User Review

  • d_riptide


    5 / 10
    You’ve ever watched those crappy after-school specials that want to talk to you about the dangerous implications of drugs but they CLEARLY have no idea either what to talk about or HOW to go about it? That’s the entire condensed experience of “Pain Hustlers” in a nutshell: rote and conflicted.

    From what I can recall about the true story going into this one, I can tell they wanted to tackle A LOT: the exploitation of one very marginal sector of the healthcare industry and making a fortune out of it, the rise to riches plot, financial difficulties and broken legal systems encouraging moral decay, addiction and classism…..all of which leads to a giant fountain of untapped potential. I can sum up the issues of this story down to two margin notes.

    One: its plot structure is warped. Its main purpose is clear enough but everything surrounding it is uneven and the eventual resolution is abrupt. And two: it either loses sight of its messages or deliberately goes out of its way to choose the most rote, safest option possible. So many films and documentaries have already told this story to much better effect and NONE of them were stupid enough to keep the film's actual subject matter at arm's length and rob it of the weight it deserves. I can deal with this being a heavily fictionalized account of what actually happened but not only does it spend so much time critiquing the inhumanity of the startup and luxuriating in its gaudiness to diminishing returns, it ends up using the fentanyl crisis as nothing more but a narrative backdrop, which is very shady considering the entire point of this film was supposed to be spreading awareness about how these seedy sales reps kicked off the opioid epidemic!

    It skirts on the BARE MINIMUM of unpacking the wider dysfunction of the American health while COMPLETELY underselling the human cost of people who died. You see what I mean when this film is conflicted?

    There’s some quippy dialogue oozing with personality and the rest of it feels stilted and awkward. All the acting is sturdy throughout, Emily Blunt and Chris Evans the definite standouts, but every character feels like more like a caricature than a genuine person.

    It’s unintentionally funny how seriously the musical score takes itself, there’s this surreal discordance with the production design that somehow makes it look both generic and cheap at once and the tone shifting abruptly almost every half hour doesn’t help matters either. Cinematography, in its base form, has a flamboyant flair to it but the blatant over-editing and the superficiality in which it’s executed mucks up the story’s pacing and confuses its tone.

    David Yates’ direction goes for every attempt to capitalize on the films flamboyant style and yet it only highlights how little of it the movie actually has. It constantly boarders between being dull and quasi-entertaining as he tries to retread familiar ground with a kitchen-sink approach that barely darts on slick or breezy.

    What could’ve been a sharp vicious satire on the value of money over everything else in America's prescription drug market is just an uninvolving drama that takes the piss out of itself in the least effective manner possible. So desperate to try and be something it’s not, it sacrifices all the elements that DO work and turn it into something extremely disingenuous.