Pain Hustlers review: Unveiling the Opioid Crisis

Pain Hustlers review: a film delving into the complex world of the opioid crisis, had the unenviable task of bringing something fresh to a topic already explored in various notable TV shows and films. While it aspired to be a searing exposé akin to “The Wolf of Wall Street” for this crisis, it ultimately falls short, offering entertainment but lacking the incendiary impact needed to galvanize the audience.

Taking inspiration from Evan Hughes’s New York Times Magazine article ‘The Pain Hustlers,’ Pain Hustlers transforms the real-life company (Insys) into a fictional counterpart, Zanna Therapeutics, desperately seeking success for its drug Lonafen.

The audience’s guide through this dark pharmaceutical world is Liza Drake (Emily Blunt), a single mother who encounters the confident sales rep Pete Brenner (Chris Evans) and is enticed by the promise of a fresh start. As Liza demonstrates her natural sales acumen, Zanna’s fortunes rise, but it descends into the depths of the pharmaceutical industry. Liza’s newfound wealth soon clashes with her moral concerns about the real-world consequences.

Pain Hustlers’ main issue is that by humanizing Liza and striving for a conventional storytelling approach, it blunts its cutting edge. The film is preoccupied with providing a character to root for, and while Liza’s actions are morally ambiguous, the audience is consistently reminded of her motivations—her daughter’s need for life-saving surgery.

Pain Hustlers review (2)

Under the direction of David Yates, best known for his work in the Wizarding World, Pain Hustlers is crafted for mainstream appeal, effectively conveying complex information in a digestible manner. It’s not a dull watch, but it leaves viewers pondering its ultimate purpose. The film falls short of generating the outrage it seeks, and, despite the efforts of its talented cast, it lacks the emotional weight that a real-life story might have offered.

While Pain Hustlers tries to emulate the wild excesses of “The Wolf of Wall Street” or the sharp satire of “The Big Short,” it never quite achieves the level of outrageousness or dark comedy required to leave a lasting impression. Its attempt to add depth with a faux-documentary structure and glimpses of ‘real’ victims of Zanna falls short of capturing the impact of the actual opioid crisis. The film takes a darker turn in the final act, but it feels more like an attempt to redeem Liza than a natural progression.

Despite the narrative’s shortcomings, the talented cast, including Chris Evans and Emily Blunt, deliver compelling performances, infusing their characters with charisma and entertainment value. Andy Garcia and Catherine O’Hara also contribute to the film’s overall appeal with their supporting roles.

Also read: Cat Person Film Review: Visceral Impact and Missed Opportunities

Our Reader’s Queries

Is Pain Hustlers worth it?

Pain Hustlers is a must-see for those who love true-life drama. While it may not be the most thrilling or adrenaline-pumping film out there, it still delivers a solid and compelling story.

Why did Pain Hustlers get bad reviews?

Pain Hustlers offers some entertainment, but it lacks focus, making the story feel like a missed opportunity. The buildup showcases great performances, but the finale feels rushed and familiar, lacking the desired style.

Is Pain Hustlers based on a true story?

Certainly! Pain Hustlers is derived from a real-life account chronicled in Evan Hughes’ 2022 non-fiction novel of identical title. Hughes’ non-fiction work, Pain Hustlers, is rooted in a 2018 New York Times feature entitled “The Pain Hustlers”.

What goes wrong in Pain Hustlers?

Pharmaceutical reps in Pain Hustlers easily manipulate the system, funneling bribes for doctors through “speaker programs” and getting medication like Lonafen prescribed without considering the risks. The surprising ecosystem depicted in the book highlights the ease with which these reps are able to rig the game.

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