Credit: Philippe Bossé/Quiver
by Steven Warner Featured Film Horizon Line

Crisis | Nicholas Jarecki

February 24, 2021

Crisis is an overblown and unfocused bit of pap that fails dramatically, intellectually, and rhetorically.

Armie Hammer’s very public current controversies are probably the only reason why anyone will give even a passing glance to Nicholas Jarecki’s Crisis, a tone-deaf treatise on the opioid epidemic that desperately wants to be the 21st-century answer to Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic but instead plays more like one of those DTV rip-offs of Hollywood blockbusters released by The Asylum every couple months. A sheen of respectability comes courtesy of a cast of recognizable faces including Hammer, Gary Oldman, Evangeline Lilly, Greg Kinnear, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, and Martin Donovan, but even they are unable to overcome a facile script and laughably overwrought dialogue. Jarecki takes a multi-pronged approach to the material, offering up three storylines that collectively illustrate the far-reaching effects of the opioid crisis. Hammer plays an undercover DEA agent attempting to bring down a distribution ring; Lilly is a recovering Oxy addict who discovers unsettling truths about her teenage son upon his sudden death; and Oldman portrays a researcher working for a powerful pharmaceutical company who finds that their latest drug, a game-changing, purportedly non-addictive pain reliever, is in fact, “30 times more addictive than Oxy,” which, wow. Subtlety is not this film’s strong suit, and it brings out the worst instincts in its seasoned performers: Hammer opts for tough-guy theatrics, Lilly sobs for two hours straight, and Oldman hams it up to a degree that would make Miss Piggy proud. There’s nothing resembling depth to be found here, unless one finds such intellectual mic drops as “Drugs are dangerous” and “Multi-billion dollar corporations are shady and opportunistic” to be revelatory.

Even on a purely storytelling level, Jarecki fails miserably, ultimately intertwining the Hammer and Lilly threads — and yes, that does sound like an awesome ‘80s mismatched-cops show — but happy to leave the Oldman plotline blowing in the wind. It’s easy to understand this latter thread’s connection from an objective standpoint, but given the film’s general ludicrousness, Oldman could have easily been written to be Lilly’s father or some other such nonsense and no one would have blinked. The Big Pharm stuff instead gives the impression that Jarecki desperately wanted to remake The Insider and gave no further thought on how to integrate it into the larger narrative; in fact, you could excise that entire section and it would have no impact on the rest of the film whatsoever. It would also happily result in a movie that was 40 minutes shorter and not quite so self-important. After all, despite demanding considerable attention, the Oldman stuff still feels so rushed that it makes little sense dramatically, leading one to wonder if there is a three-hour cut of this film somewhere — a chilling thought. Jarecki demonstrated with his 2012 fiction debut Arbitrage that he is indeed a competent filmmaker, but the visual aesthetic here is right out of Modern Day Hollywood Thrillers 101, with an emphasis on clean, structured lines and a cool color palette consisting solely of grays and blues — although he does introduce a warmer feel for random interior shots, so bully for the innovation? But fundamentally, Crisis is the type of movie that slaps a few random facts from Wikipedia about opioid addiction over its end credits and considers itself profound; a five-minute segment on Inside Edition is more enlightening than this dim-witted and disingenuous bit of dank drivel.