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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 8, 2023



‘PAIN HUSTLERS’ stars top British actress Emily Blunt who tackles a very serious lead role after doing a supporting role in “Oppenheimer” and commercial films like “A Quiet Place” and “Jungle Cruise”.

She’s really so busy as she has another film coming up, “The Fall Guy”, with Ryan Gosling.

“Pain Hustlers” on Netflix is based on the true story of Liza Drake, a single mom in Florida who is down on her luck after she was kicked out of the home of her sister who’s helping her. 

She moves to a motel with her daughter, Phoebe (Chloe Coleman), who was almost expelled for lighting up a fire near their school campus that nearly went out of control

She works as a stripper in a club and by chance, meets a drug company executive, Pete Brenner (Chris Evans), who is impressed by her glibness and offers to give her a job that will pay her $100,000 a year. 

Her job is to sell their company’s painkilling drug, Lonafen, that is having a difficult time breaking into the opioid market. 

To help her become a credible executive, Pete fakes her resume saying she has a degree in biochemistry. 

She meets the company’s top boss, Dr. Jack Neel (Andy Garcia), and she is hired to persuade a top doctor to use Lonafen.

She tries to sell it to many doctors but it’s a hard climb as no one really wants to prescribe it. 

She’s about to give up when she finally gets to convince Dr. Lydell (Bryan Darcy James) to prescribe it to a patient who’s not responding well to another drug.

She succeeds in getting Lydell to be a regular prescriber and Lonafen is off to a good start to rise in sales.

Their company, Zanna, starts raking it in. Liza is eventually promoted as the national sales director of their company.

But internal shenanigans with the other company executives who are not happy with Liza’s meteoric rise soon set in. 

One of them threatens to expose Liza’s fake curriculum vitae.

Another one resigned as he says Zanna will surely run into legal trouble. And it does, eventually.

Things get more complicated when Liza’s mom (Catherine O’Hara) gets involved after she slept with Dr. Neel.

To add to her problems, Liza’s daughter turns out to have a growth in her brain that needs surgery, a patient dies due to Lonafen overdose and she later goes to jail. 

As a chronicle of Liza’s rise and fall, one can’t help but sympathize with her. 

The film is set in 2011 and she is its narrator. She says in her narration: “I did it for the right reasons”. 

No doubt the very dependable Ms. Blunt does well in the job of portraying Liza Drake and we just wish the film were as good as her.

Many films and TV series have been made about the opioid crisis in the U.S. where the drug fentanyl, which turned out to be addictive, have killed so many people. 

Netflix itself has the current TV series “Painkiller”, based on the book “Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic”, about the Sacklers, the family that manufactured the drug and has been described as “the most evil family in America” and “the worst drug dealers in history”.

Another related series is the acclaimed “Dopesick” with Michael Keaton as the doctor who exposed the complexities of the opioid crisis. 

There’s also the touching Netflix documentary “Recovery Boys” about four addicted young men in a rehab center in West Virginia. 

Hilary Swank also had a recent film, “The Good Mother”, about a mom investigating the murder of her son because of the opioid epidemic.

No doubt that “Pain Hustlers” has a high-powered cast led by Blunt and Chris Evans, who are both very competent and have a likeable presence in their respective roles. 

But the film just doesn’t click well with its mockumentary interviews and giddy montages used to better effect by more accomplished films.  

It is directed by David Yates, who did many “Harry Potter” and “Fantastic Beasts” flicks. 

He took a lot of liberties with the material, changing the company and many of the characters.

He made sure Liza as the protagonist has a valid reason to do what she did: her daughter’s brain ailment. 

She also rationalizes her action that she only wants to help cancer patients get the correct drug to alleviate their pain. 

Somehow, we do care about her and her growing disillusionment with the company she works for, but the fact remains that she is a flawed heroine. 

A lot of people died because of the drug she promoted and sold and this is really about the greed and corruption of big pharmaceutical companies.