The opioid crisis in America is one of the country’s great current tragedies. The fact that prescription drugs, ideally meant to help people in pain, is among our citizenry’s leading causes of death, that’s horrifying. It’s an unforgivable evil that these pills are allowed to flow so freely, all in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Many a documentary has tackled this issue. Now, adding to the narrative films hoping to shine a light on the issue, is Crisis. Sadly, this is not going to move the needle. A movie content to engage in genre tropes, it’s a throwaway bit of pulp that could have been so much more.
Crisis tells three stories, but doesn’t especially tell any of them well. A surprisingly big name cast, as well as a reliably solid filmmaker should have come up with something better than this. It’s not even that it’s bad, since it’s not. It’s simply average, coming across like anything you’d find in the discount DVD bin or On Demand with no fanfare. Even with a fairly dour ending, nothing here stands out as noteworthy.
There are a trio of narratives at play here. One features federal agent Jake Kelly (Armie Hammer) arranging a huge drug bust for a Fentanyl smuggling operation between Canada and the United States. Undercover, he needs to balance keeping the cartels on the hook, as well as making sure nothing happens to his addicted sister Emmie (Lily-Rose Depp). Another features recovering OxyContin addict and mother Claire Reimann (Evangeline Lilly) trying to track down what happened to her son, who may have been involved with narcotics. His disappearance, almost shrugged at by the Detroit Police Department, sends her down a rabbit hole and tests both her dedication to staying clean, as well as her devotion to her son. Finally, respected university professor Dr. Tyrone Brower (Gary Oldman) has long had a fruitful relationship with his research employer, a massive drug company. However, when his testing of their new “non-addictive” painkiller reveals startling dangers, right as it’s about to come to market, he makes a powerful enemy.
While Jake tries to keep his investigation and sting operation afloat, his superior Garrett (Michelle Rodriguez) questions the cost. As Claire investigates her son’s fate, she becomes entwined with some of the same people Jake has in his crosshairs. At the same time, Tyrone doesn’t just have to deal with Dean Talbot (Greg Kinnear) at school and Bill Simmons (Luke Evans) at the drug company, he has to decide if he’s willing to throw away his career in order to tell the truth. Some of these plot strands connect directly, while others just come together in a more philosophical manner.
There’s an overqualified cast on display here. Armie Hammer, Evangeline Lilly, and Gary Oldman are our three leads, which is pretty solid casting. Supporting players like Lily-Rose Depp, Martin Donovan, Luke Evans, Greg Kinnear, and Michelle Rodriguez are all wasted though, as is Kid Cudi. Everyone mostly goes through the motions. Hammer is a bland cop. Lilly is a devastated and determined mother. Oldman is a put upon academic who can’t understand why facts fall aside to politics. They’re all fine. They’re all also somewhat bored with the material, and it shows, even if Oldman cared enough to also be a Producer here.
Filmmaker Nicholas Jarecki clearly wants to enrage you and get you riled up about the opioid crisis. To that end, there’s a lot of intentional frustration on display. Unfortunately, the storytelling never connects. We have a bland undercover procedural, an overly cliched and convenient maternal investigation, and a standard issue David vs. Goliath tale. Any one could make for a strong movie. Crisis, as well as writer/director Jarecki, tries to hide their shortcomings by throwing them all in the blender. However, while it does make for a slightly more interesting flick, it comes at the cost of any sense of pacing.
Crisis hopes to make a difference. However, even with an A-list cast (at least while Armie Hammer has yet to be cancelled), it just does not leave a mark. We’ve seen some devastating cinematic looks at the cost of opioid addiction of late. Despite noble intentions, this one will not be joining their ranks anytime soon. It just results in indifference.