Pain Hustlers

Directed By David Yates

Starring – Emily Blunt, Chris Evans, Andy Garcia

The Plot – Dreaming of a better life for her and her young daughter, Liza Drake (Blunt), a high-school dropout, lands a job with a failing pharmaceutical start-up in a yellowing strip mall in Central Florida. Liza’s charm, guts and drive catapult the company and her into the high life, where she soon finds herself at the center of a criminal conspiracy with deadly consequences.

Rated R for adult language throughout, some sexual content, nudity and drug use

Pain Hustlers | Emily Blunt + Chris Evans | Official Trailer | Netflix – YouTube


From the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, to the beachside burroughs of Central Florida, Yates’ transition to the world of corporate and moral corruption is one whose substantial style supplants an intentionally distracting element in presentation to the film’s seedy underbelly of pharmaceuticals, in turn outlining that ugly things still happen in beautiful places. This is certainly nothing new or innovative to true crime stories, especially with the recent successes of “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “The Big Short” paving the way for a new kind historical drama that feels like it’s literally being written before our very eyes. Yates commands the attention of his audience with boisterous music numbers, flashy editing schemes and intoxicating visuals that speak volumes to the live fast, crash hard lifestyle of drug rep greed, and in a time when those pockets feel squeezed tighter than ever, an effortless sense of frustration spawned from watching so many people exploiting the suffering that we indulge in the curiosity of the if and when these people will eventually reach judgment day with their own days in court. Aside from Yates, the film is mostly superbly acted by its talented ensemble, which help to override some of the one-dimensional constructs in their character outlines. Blunt and Evans instill an invigorating energy and concise chemistry to their respective portrayals that not only seamlessly exude the tangible charisma that we’ve come to expect from each of them, but also challenges them to play such against type roles that at least for Evans has garnered a second life after portraying one of the world’s biggest superheroes for so long. In addition, while the film has issues with the appeal of its storytelling, the dialogue continuously found ways to engage the audience, especially in conveying information and exposition to an industry that feels so foreign to so many of its audience. As such, Blunt’s character serves as the eyes and ears of the audience, giving us a crash course of the scam, while also outlining the moral ambiguity that resides within so many of her newfound co-workers. This makes each ensuing act transpire with elevated greed and influential intensity, but especially enhanced stakes, which never overstep the idea of the millions of people who are suffering from the company’s irresponsible actions.


As to where streaming stars like “PainKiller” and “Dopesick” vividly articulated the overwhelming tragic factor of the opioid pandemic, the script for “Pain Hustlers” lets it down in more ways than one, proving why this story and its many zany characters feel better suited for the long-term storytelling of a series, instead of a feature length film. Despite this film clocking in at nearly two hours, it never fully captures the grasp or appeal of the narrative, with a pacing imbalance and surface level exploration that gradually dimishes its positive returns. On the former, the script spends so much time introducing us to these characters and the extent of their scheme that it leaves the ensuing conflicts and impacts of the third act feeling a bit sudden and stunted by the way they materialize unnaturally, leading to an abrupt resolution during the movie’s climax that ends things a bit anticlimactically. As for the latter, the material is never punchy or profound enough to tell the story in an original manner, instead walking the same path that aforementioned films like “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “The Big Short” practically created a new subgenre with. Because of such, “Pain Hustlers” is in the shadow of those films with familiar directions and outlines that derive the material in the least appealing manner. As usual, a new hire introduces a rebellious method of selling that engrosses the company in maximum potential, before the feds come crashing down on their lavish surroundings. Where this film even attempts to differ in concept is in an overriding narration from Blunt and Evans, which blossom from colorless interview segments, where each of the are being interviewed by an off-screen source. They’re a bit on the nose with the black and white color correction speaking volumes to the ethical ambiguity of their practices, but beyond that only echoing what already transpires on-screen, which often feel like reliving the same moments with DVD commentary. Finally, while Blunt and Evans are able to exude enough chemistry and charisma to allude their one-dimensional confines in characterization, Andy Garcia is not as fortunate, with a lack of energy and gravitas that feel like more of the same from his work over the last decade. Garcia himself has more than proven that he can be an impactful actor, if given the right circumstances, but his shaky commitment here leaves his work ultimately defined by the one continuous mood he delivers to the engagement, which make the film drift with uninterest whenever the story focuses on him.

“Pain Hustlers” is better than most recent Netflix offerings, especially with the appeal of Emily Blunt and Chris Evans exuding such against-type personalities, but its important true story is defined by lackadasical execution inside of shallow exploration. Yates does seamlessly enact the energy and imagery of the lavish lifestyle attained pharma compromising millions, but the film is never even half as riveting or endearing as its subject matter deserves, deducing it as a mediocre placebo for entertainment value that isn’t always easy to swallow.

My Grade: 6/10 or C

2 thoughts on “Pain Hustlers

  1. Excellent review! I like the cast and the premise, but it seems like it doesn’t take the material as seriously as other features like dopesick, which really examines the pain generated by the pharmaceutical industry. This is another one that I might catch on a rainy day, but won’t go out of my way to see.

  2. I originally saw the trailer for this one and was kind of interested, but then it fell off my raider. Despite the story sounding super interesting, this does sound like typical Netflix content but slightly elevated by the cast. For a movie with such an important story, it deserved to be great instead of somewhat decent. I might give this one a shot. Love the term “lackadasical” in your closing statement…never heard that word before. Great work!

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