Painkiller is more of a mouthpiece than a movie. The filmmakers are so excited by the film’s premise, that they would rather table action sequences and tense showdowns to have discussions about Big Pharma and the opioid epidemic it seems to be encouraging. I admire their enthusiasm, but this attitude has distracted them from making a good movie.
Painkiller reminded me of the equally banal God’s Not Dead, where two opposing and very opinionated forces come head-to-head to debate until one of them, well, dies. Not because of the debate they’re having, but because the screenwriters want to end the story in a convenient fashion.
Both examples are preachy in their own ways, and the production doesn’t try hard to dress up their exchanges. Michael Paré (Sicilian Vampire) plays Alan, an apathetic doctor who is disconnected from his patients, and Bill Oberst Jr. (HEIR) plays radio host Bill, a father grieving the death of his opioid-addicted daughter who turns to vigilante violence to send a message to Big Pharma. Most of the movie consists of individual scenes with each actor, chewing on their hard-boiled dialogue and beating us over our head with their perspective. They occasionally share the screen and snarl at each other. This format is intercut with repetitive scenes of Alan being cruel to other people and a masked Bill shooting other “pill-pushers” point-blank.
The film, voluntarily and continuously, puts itself in a sticky funk. The passionate points of its topical and serious discussions are hidden behind trashy thrills and over-the-top performances. The filmmakers want to entertain movie goers, but they don’t know how to do that without undercutting their integrity. What audiences end up receiving is an indifferent movie that’s both insensitive and mind-numbingly boring.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie