Out today on On Demand and Digital is the revenge action thriller PAINKILLER, directed by Mark Savage and starring Bill Oberst Jr. (‘Scream Queens’ ‘Criminal Minds’) and Michael Paré (Eddie & the Cruisers, Gangster Land).
Here’s the official synopsis: Bill Johnson (Oberst Jr.) has suffered the kind of loss that no parent should ever have to; watching his daughter fall victim to the opioid epidemic, which too long went unnoticed. Conversely, Dr. Alan Rhodes (Pare), has been leading a lavish lifestyle, thanks to the profits he’s been making from his prescription business. Seeing that no one is being held accountable, Bill sets out on a campaign targeting those made rich by the suffering of so many. Teaming up with a rogue cop, they set out to dismantle this network of doctors and pharmaceutical executives that continue to devastate families across the country.
Full disclosure before I give my thoughts on this film. I cannot accept how awareness and public outrage are varying during this opioid epidemic we are currently experiencing versus the crack epidemic of the 80’s and 90’s. Whereas there is way more empathy and the push for treatment – and rightfully so – the crack epidemic saw the demonization of addicts, especially in communities of color, lengthier criminal sentences and punitive measures that impacted families for generations. Many people of color had their homes confiscated as their family members were handed mandatory minimums for possession of small amounts of drugs and treated as “criminal crackheads” versus the current empathetic outlook of providing support and treatment for those battling heroin addictions.
So, it’s quite hard for me to completely buy in to a movie’s premise when the theme involves eliciting compassion that wasn’t given to many people I grew up with, and even lived with at one point in time.
That being said, I am a lover of the action/revenge genre and cleared my thoughts enough to allow myself to be entertained at least when I screened the film. Unfortunately, the movie spends so much time being preachy with its premise, it neglects character development and a solid backstory – and fails to allow viewers to “buy in” to the protagonist’s (Bill) cause.
Bill never faces the person(s) who are actually responsible for supplying his daughter – who we never know much about – with drugs and seems to randomly select which dealers and opioid distributors he will target, except for Rhodes.
Someone calls in to his radio show to vent about losing a family member to drugs, okay that supplier gets targeted, etc. It would have been much more moving to see him getting actual revenge for his daughter, versus the film selling a theme of vengeance for the sake of vengeance.
Oh, and there’s a “Make America Great Again” dog whistle planted firmly in the movie, so it pretty much is a rebel against the system type of narrative without much stock in the why.
And it doesn’t help that Bill committed most of his murders in broad daylight! No seriously, parking lots, cars driving in the background type of poor planning, and getting away with it. I mean talk about a revenge fantasy for real!
I must be honest MMT Fam, there is a film for everyone and for me this wasn’t it. I’m sure those persons who have, unfortunately, dealt with the underlying opioid abuse messaging in some shape or form, fall in line with “Make America Great Again” slogans and are lovers of action might find this their cup of tea.
But I am a 47-year-old socially aware descendant of American slaves, who were of the Ibo ethnic group in Africa, and of Gullah Geechee heritage. My history and lineage do not include a time where America has ever been “great” towards every citizen, of every race. So, excuse me while I pass on the notions presented in this one family.
I rate the film 1.5 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
PAINKILLER is available now On-Demand and Digital.
Until next thought family, Thomasena