Directed by Nicholas Jarecki.
Starring Gary Oldman, Armie Hammer, Evangeline Lilly, Greg Kinnear, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, Lily-Rose Depp, Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, Duke Nicholson, Veronica Ferres, and Martin Donovan.
A drug trafficker organizes a smuggling operation while a recovering addict seeks the truth behind her son’s disappearance.
The opioid crisis has hit many families worldwide. Seeing friends and family struggle with this will never be easy, and people rarely want to address the larger issues. It’s interesting to see the topic finally tackled in Hollywood. Not saying there haven’t been films about drugs, but 2021’s Crisis expands the scope of the issue away from individual struggles to the overarching problems.
At times, the shift makes this a more exciting watch as it’s not the same been there, done that story. But at other times, it’s a bit impersonal and rigid for you to get invested in anyone’s character or motives. That’s why Crisis is one of those films where I always find it a bit harder to review.
There’s plenty of pieces here that work, and if I move them around in my head, I could make it work. But as the film is presented, it’s a bit too flawed to hit the next level, which is challenging as the subject matter is important, and there’s plenty of solid acting on display. The film needs a bit more polish to hit anything above just average.
Nicholas Jarecki’s Crisis follows three different people and sees how this particular global health crisis is changing their lives. We have Evangeline Lilly as a mother who’s driven by vengeance after her son is killed in the crossfire of a drug war. Armie Hammer is starring as an undercover DEA agent obsessed with taking down an opioid distribution network. And finally, Gary Oldman is a university professor and biochemist faced with the formidable task of keeping his ethics or keeping his job.
These three characters, backed by good acting performances, really do have some juicy material to sink their teeth into, yet it doesn’t feel like each is getting to live in their role. All of the emotional and dramatic beats are there for the characters. It feels like they are tip-toeing through the scenes rather than commanding it as they should.
And then the supporting cast is packed with brilliant performers like Luke Evans, Greg Kinnear, and Michelle Rodriguez, but they never have the time or the dialogue to make more than a fleeting impression. Though, Evans gets the more lasting role and does well going toe-to-toe with Oldman.
Hammer stands out as the weakest of the core trio, even though he has the story that should work as the most engaging. It’s like he’s present in class but never raises his hand to participate. His once-commanding voice sounds like it’s dryly reading off the dialogue instead of any impassioned commitment that you’d want from this role.
Thankfully Gary Oldman knows what he needs to do to elevate the material, which is no surprise. It’s like you wake up the moment he begins speaking, commanding the screen, even when delivering some cliched lines. He’s also playing a rather nice guy, which is great for his reputation. Oldman feels a bit too comfortable playing grumpy older men and needs more than a few more good-guy roles in his later resume.
Evangeline Lilly is Crisis’s MVP, offering up a story worthy of its whole film. The trope of “angry parent wants revenge” will never die out in the cinema, and her take on this story was thoroughly engaging. Maybe it’s Lily’s strong acting, or she just had the most exciting material to work with here, but I kept wanting the story to cut back to her arc more and more.
Filmmaker Nicholas Jarecki’s take on the high stakes and dark world of the opioid crisis is a strong perspective. Jarecki knows the issue and wants to condemn it, which is refreshing in an era where many filmmakers present problems without anything else to say. In your film, merely stating that addiction is wrong isn’t enough anymore; we need to start asking questions and working on solutions. Not claiming Jarecki made a piece that will change the world, but I admire taking a stance.
Sadly, Crisis feels a bit too weighed down by its heavy subject. It moves at a slow pace, even for a film with three very different characters. It also feels a bit cold and distant at times, and nothing brings you in before trying to make you feel something. You understand that Evangeline Lilly’s character is upset bout losing her son, but you never really care beyond the base level of empathy there.
There’s also something slightly unsatisfying about the structure of the story. Maybe it would’ve been something a bit too dated or cliched, but I do wish there was a moment these stories truly collided. I think of a Coen Brothers movie where there are all these combustible parts, and they come together for a big explosion, and the film only delivers that ever-so-slightly.
Without the issues plaguing cinemas and if one of the lead actors weren’t tinged with shocking controversy, you’d see this get a solid theatrical run and find a stable home on a streaming service. But Crisis doesn’t have the script or the gravitas to rise above those handicaps.
Nothing wrong with a middle-of-the-road film, but with the talent involved and the glimmers of promise the director shows, you want this movie to go above that.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★