CRISIS Movie Poster | ©2021 Quiver Distribution

CRISIS Movie Poster | ©2021 Quiver Distribution

Rating: R
Stars: Gary Oldman, Armie Hammer, Evangeline Lilly, Guy Nadon, Michelle Rodriguez, Greg Kinnear, Indira Varma, Mia Kirschner, Luke Evans, Scott Mescudi
Writer: Nicholas Jarecki
Director: Nicholas Jarecki
Distributor: Quiver Distribution
Release Date: February 26, 2021

CRISIS is a well-intentioned and-well shot – on 35mm, no less – thriller about the opioid epidemic. Director/writer Nicholas Jarecki has a lot on his mind here – so much, in fact, that he’s got three distinct plotlines running here. One of these never links up with the other two, which is among the film’s several problems.

A serene, snowy landscape is interrupted by the hectic arrest of a young drug smuggler at the U.S./Canada border south of Montreal.

Then we’re in Detroit, where grumpy high-level drug dealer Jake Kelly (Armie Hammer) turns out to be an even grumpier Federal agent. Jake is trying to bring down both a Fentanyl-selling Detroit-based gang and a Montreal-based supplier by setting up a deal between the two. This requires him going to Montreal and convincing criminal boss Mother (Guy Nadon) that he’s the real thing. In his personal life, Jake is coping with a drug-using younger sister (Lily-Rose Depp).

Architect Claire Reimann (Evangeline Lilly) is a recovering Oxycodone addict with a son who’s a high school hockey star. When a horrible tragedy occurs, Claire mounts her own investigation into it.

Dr. Tyrone Brower (Gary Oldman) is a university biology professor who supplements his teaching income by running routine drug studies on mice for a pharmaceutical corporation. A new product called Klaralon is being touted as a groundbreaking nonaddictive painkiller. When Brower’s lab techs inform him that they’ve found that Klaralon, if used too long, is three times more addictive than Oxy, he at first doesn’t want to believe it. At last, he tells his employers of the findings.

CRISIS plays and feels like two separate films. There’s the fairly standard one about law enforcement vs. ruthless bad guys with a wild card in the mix. There are some twists here and there, but mostly it feels like a high-end episode of an action procedural.

Filmmaker Jarecki’s heart seems to be with the other part of CRISIS, which is broadly about the difficulty of getting drug manufacturers to put ethics ahead of profits. This is an inarguably worthy subject, and it’s probably why so many impressive actors (besides Oldman, we see Greg Kinnear, Indira Varma, Scott Mescudi) Luke Evans, Martin Donovan, Hiro Kanagawa, and more) signed on appear in small roles in this section of the film.

However, this gets a little muddled, starting with the actual tests. It may be clear to Dr. Brower and his staff that the Klaralon is more addictive than what’s currently legally available. To the audience, it looks more like the new drug is straight-out lethal. We only gradually surmise that this isn’t the case because that’s not the argument Brower is making.

Other issues pile on, including the troubling matter that Brower harassed a female student years ago, and the university is bringing it up now to try to stop him from talking about the drug tests. The film portrays this as unfair and hypocritical on the university’s part. A lot of viewers are likely to think this is what the university should have done at the time Because this isn’t the kind of crisis the movie is interested in, it doesn’t examine the notion of an institution doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

The prescription drug pandemic in America needs as much light shed on it as possible. Jarecki tries to do that with CRISIS, but he’s tackling a whole bunch of subtopics at the same time he’s servicing some generic thriller sequences, all within a two-hour framework. As a result, the message is blurred.

CRISIS also has a couple of additional burdens that could not have been foreseen at the time of its making. One is Hammer’s presence as a lead character, which is liable to be distracting for a lot of folks. Another is the sad fact that, at present, the opioid epidemic is not the worst health crisis the country has faced in the past century.

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