Admirably, writer-director Nicholas Jarecki weaves three (and eventually, following a merger of sorts, two) stories set against the backdrop of the ongoing opioid crisis. Frustratingly, the film, fittingly called Crisis, juggles too many characters and too many narrative threads within that admirable experiment. The movie is ambitious — too much so, in fact. It is less a matter of eliminating any of these three stories, each of which has some point of interest to keep us engaged, than it is of the lost opportunity to flesh out each of these threads. Two hours simply wasn’t enough; here is a movie that needed three.

The first story follows Jake Kelly (Armie Hammer), an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration who is also currently undercover inside an operation to smuggle Fentanyl across the border from Canada into the United States. His job (performed with the supervision of Garrett, a more senior DEA agent played by Michelle Rodriguez) is to make sure things go smoothly enough to make arrests down the road, meaning that nothing can go wrong for “Mother” (Guy Nadon), the shadowy figure at the center of the criminal organization supplying the drugs. Meanwhile, Jake must juggle this responsibility with that of looking out for his younger sister Emmie (Lily-Rose Depp), who has a dependency on drugs herself that on-and-off stints in rehab haven’t been helping.

In the second story, Claire Reimann (Evangeline Lilly) is also an addict, but she’s in recovery after a corrupt doctor suggested oxycodone. When her son turns up dead from a drug overdose, her suspicion is raised: The boy was not a drug addict, and indeed, a coroner’s exam reveals foul play. Despite warnings from her sister (Mia Kirshner) and general common sense, Claire launches her own investigation into the event, hiring a P.I. to do much of the leg work and extrajudicially questioning the suspects she finds, such as Derrick (Duke Nicholson), a young man with whom her son had gone to Canada.

These stories eventually come together in predictable ways, as Claire discovers that her son’s activities are tied to the organization led by “Mother” and her grassroots investigation eventually interferes with the DEA probe. Jarecki seems entirely concerned here with the procedural elements of these investigations, so that the development of Jake and Claire as characters outside the context of the thriller escapades stumbles a bit, despite the sturdy performances from Hammer and Lilly as desperate people in search of answers.

The third story is separated entirely from the other two in more ways than simple geography: Dr. Tyrone Brower (Gary Oldman) is a professor and scientist commissioned to research Klaralon, a drug that is meant to curb addiction. His drug trials on rats have resulted in increased dependency and, after only 10 days, death, but the CEO (Luke Evans) of the drug company and the dean (Greg Kinnear) of the university sponsoring the study simply want him to sign off. When he refuses, they work to make things quite unfortunate for him, up to and including full-blown character assassination.

Tyrone’s story is the one with the most promise here — not only because of Oldman’s solid performance as a man of principle among the corrupt, but because Jarecki introduces some genuine ethical tension in this part of the story. Otherwise, things for Jake and Claire simply devolve into an entirely anticlimactic confrontation involving a crime of impassioned rage and an attempted cover-up. Crisis is well-made and not too confusingly structured for a triptych that eventually becomes two concurrently running storylines, but it ultimately betrays the promise of too many storylines to come together satisfactorily.

Summary
Frustratingly, the film juggles too many characters and too many narrative threads within its admirable experiment.
60 %
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One Comment

  1. Madje Heitler

    March 4, 2021 at 1:42 pm

    You do such a disservice to this movie when you say good things about it and then end with the negative. Better to not review at all. In fact Hollywood needs more movies like this. Pulled from the headlines, each story has its own powerful emotional impact. The actors are terrific. And the endings leave the ray of hope. There are rot “too many story lines to come together satisfactorily” in fact it comes together very satisfactorily.

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