Pain Hustlers Review – IGN

Pain Hustlers opens in select theaters October 20 and streams on Netflix beginning October 27. This review is based on a screening of the film at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.

Pain Hustlers: A Mixed Bag of Pharmaceutical Drama

Directed by David Yates, Pain Hustlers attempts to bring to light the real-life pharmaceutical crisis in an unconventional manner. However, the film often falls short, delivering a confusing narrative and failing to provide meaningful commentary on the roots of the opioid crisis. While it borrows elements from successful films like “Goodfellas” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Pain Hustlers lacks the cinematic intoxication and depth of its predecessors.

A Rollercoaster Ride with Liza Drake

Emily Blunt plays Liza Drake, a rising pharmaceutical sales rep with a shady past. Introduced through documentary testimonies, Drake is portrayed as an enigmatic and ambitious character. Unfortunately, the film fails to capitalize on this intriguing setup. Drake’s journey unfolds predictably, as she navigates a broken marriage, ailing daughter, and a new job at the struggling Zanna pharmaceutical company.

Pain Hustlers Gallery

Drake’s character lacks depth and her motivations remain unclear throughout the film. While the performances of Blunt and Chloe Coleman as Drake’s daughter are commendable, the movie fails to contrast their warm and intimate connection with the cold world of pharmaceutical sales.

The Flawed World of Pain Hustlers

The film’s depiction of medical corruption is led by Dr. Jack Neel, played by Andy Garcia. Despite Garcia’s menacing performance, the character suffers from conflicting writing. Neel’s noble motives coexist with his avarice, but the film fails to explore this internal conflict effectively.

Furthermore, Pain Hustlers’ attempts to address the underbelly of success and the allure of money and power fall flat. The story lacks a sense of hedonism and fails to provide a compelling justification for Drake’s involvement in the seedy world of pharmaceutical sales. Instead, the film portrays her as an altruistic force driven solely by a desire to alleviate people’s pain. This one-dimensional portrayal and the absence of moral ambiguity leave the audience wanting more.

A Missed Opportunity

Pain Hustlers has the potential to shed light on the complex issues surrounding the opioid crisis. However, the film never fully realizes this potential. Instead, it presents a superficial narrative that fails to reconcile its conflicting themes and characters. Blunt’s performance as a desperate mother caught in a challenging situation is overshadowed by the film’s focus on material temptation and moral incorruptibility.

The drama is exceedingly empty.

In the end, Pain Hustlers falls short of delivering a thought-provoking exploration of the pharmaceutical crisis. Despite the fine-tuned performances, the film lacks substance and fails to provide meaningful insights.