Review by Sean Boelman
Nicholas Jarecki’s opioid epidemic thriller Crisis straddles the line between being an above average B-movie and a below average ensemble drama. Consistently entertaining but never really fulfilling the full potential of the premise, this is better than anyone would have expected even if it isn’t particularly memorable.
The film tells the interconnected stories of a drug smuggler trying to arrange an operation between the U.S. and Canada, a recovering addict mother investigating the mysterious disappearance of her son, and a research professor challenging Big Pharma. Jarecki’s script definitely has a lot of compelling elements in play, but it isn’t evenly developed.
Both the drug smuggler and missing son storylines are very conventional and don’t deviate much from the formula. Forced emotional beats and melodrama abound, and the result doesn’t have a true impact. The Big Pharma storyline is much more unique and has a lot more to say, but Jarecki doesn’t seem to trust the audience to get invested in the less action-packed storyline.
The character development in the movie is also somewhat lacking. Although this is a very common sin of films that have this many moving parts, it feels like a lot of the characterization is accomplished through exposition rather than other, more cinematic means. And in the case of the missing son storyline, we aren’t given enough time to form a connection before we are expected to care.
Jarecki was able to assemble a really strong ensemble for his movie, but more often than not, they aren’t given much to do. The highlights are Gary Oldman, who gives an unexpectedly nuanced turn as the ethically-conflicted professor, and Guy Nadon, whose sinisterly charming kingpin doesn’t get enough screen time. Others, like Greg Kinnear, Michelle Rodriguez, Kid Cudi, Lily-Rose Depp, and Luke Evans are underused.
Perhaps most disappointing is that the film doesn’t seem to care very much about the opioid epidemic at all. Random statistics spouted by characters in dialogue and title cards right before the credits roll aren’t enough to make a statement much more nuanced than “drugs are bad”. Instead, addiction serves as a backdrop for a popcorn movie, which isn’t what needs to be done.
On a technical level, Jarecki’s film is more than competent. The action sequences are shot in a way that is legitimately suspenseful, and this keeps the story moving along despite its nearly two-hour runtime. Jarecki also does a good job of immersing the viewer in this world that both feels real and distanced from that in which we live.
Crisis isn’t a great movie, ultimately weighed down by its lack of thematic and character development. Still, it’s far more entertaining and well-made than a majority of other generic crime thrillers that come out these days.
Crisis hits theaters on February 26 and VOD on March 5.