Pain Hustlers is an entertaining and frustrating look at the pharmaceutical world and all the ways that doctors were bribed to write higher prescriptions for a fentanyl based drug. Having seen the fallout of the opioid crisis, many would assume there would be far more regulations and oversight when it comes to doctors pushing new prescriptions. Somehow, companies still managed to incentivize doctors into breaking their codes of ethics to make more money for everyone involved, while leaving patients overly medicated and at risk of overdosing. With fentanyl tearing the country apart in present day, it’s no wonder that it’s such an epidemic because the people we trusted to care for us got greedy and valued money over human lives.
Liza Drake (Emily Blunt) is a single mother who’s been down on her luck and living in her sister’s basement as she moves from job to job. When a drunken conversation with pharma sales rep Pete Brenner (Chris Evans) leads to a job offer, Liza reinvents herself and makes it her goal to help push this new cancer pill. When she learns that there’s money to be made off essentially paying doctors to write scripts for their drug, things get fast and heavy as all morals are thrown out the door. Everything seemed to be going alright until the fentanyl in the drug started leading to overdoses.
Pain Hustlers is at its most effective when the story takes a back seat to the realities caused by this entire situation. You had non-cancer patients being prescribed a cancer fighting drug that’s full of fentanyl and somehow none of these medical professionals or salespeople ever stopped to think about the damage they’re going to cause to people’s lives. The pharma group looked at pain as something we shouldn’t have to feel because we have so many pills and liquids you can drink to numb it all down. This isn’t too far off from how our country markets most things that aren’t great for us but make them tons of money.
Emily Blunt is enjoyable in this role because at least her character has some semblance of humanity and constantly questions her reality as she makes more and more money. On one side, she’s able to finally provide for her family in a way that she’s only ever dreamed of, but it comes at a heavy mental toll knowing the direction the company wanted to take the drug. Chris Evan’s rowdy Bostonian salesman was comical, but he didn’t totally leave a huge impression on me in a role that could’ve been played by many other actors. The two do, however, have a very enjoyable chemistry, with Blunt really doing all the heavy lifting in this drama that feels all too current in today’s climate. Netflix manages yet another killer streaming option for subscribers!
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