UMass Lowell Connector Logo

“Pain Hustlers” is a painful watch

(Photo courtsey of: IMDb) “Emily Blunt outshines Chris Evan in ‘Pain Hustlers’.”

Savannah Baker
Connector Editor

The Netflix original movie, “Pain Hustlers,” fails to succeed with the commonly successful opioid crisis storyline. The filmmakers take a more creative spin on the pharmaceutical scandal about fentanyl-based painkillers which fails from an audience point of view. 

“Pain Hustlers” follows the story of single mother, Liza Drake and her rapid clime up the pharmaceutical sales ladder with the help of colleague Pete Brenner. When sales representative Brenner recruits Drake to join the Zanna Pharmaceuticals sales team, he fails to mention the company is a struggling organization. Drake desperately scrambles to convince doctors to prescribe Zanna’s fatal-based painkillers to cancer patients so she can make commissions.  

Drake is an evocative character that should generate empathy for viewers. But the movie’s major flaws burn the bridge between the film and the audience’s emotion. This makes it hard to empathize even with the struggling single mother who is determined to make a better life for her and her daughter.  

 With A-list actors Emily Blunt as Liza Drake and Chris Evan as Pete Brenner, viewers’ expectations were high. But well-loved actors can only take a movie so far. 

Although categorized as a crime drama, “Pain Hustlers” does not fit into its intended genre. The film jumps straight into a slapstick comedic tone that abruptly falls off once the climax has been reached. 

The inconsistent mood causes confusion in the narrative. It seems as if the audience is watching two different movies. The filmmakers fail to properly integrate the two genres—slapstick comedy and crime drama—effectively. 

The editing of the movie plays into the comedic take the filmmakers were attempting. But between the freeze frames, giddy party sequences, awkward voiceovers and needless faux documentary clips, the filmmakers do not execute on their premise.  

The fast cuts in the editing create a fast-moving, chaotic feel throughout the film. This works within the genre of comedy but not so much in “Pain Hustlers.” The fast cuts rush the story, giving it a completely different feel than typical drama films as they tend to naturally be slower. 

The editing is not the only part of the film that causes this rushed narrative. The subplots are never fully developed or completed. Subplots such as Drakes’ personal mother-daughter conflict and her sudden friendship with the motel neighbors are thrown into the story with little background information beforehand, making an abrupt entry into the film. Then as the main plot develops and builds, the subplots are lost. 

The undeveloped subplots correspond with the absence of relationship building seen in the film. This causes a lack of character development for the main character, Liza Drake. It is not until the last 30 minutes of run-time that Drake’s moral and ethical qualities kick in. Once the main character’s personal morals are established, the audience finally gets to see character development. But it sure did take a long time to get there. 

This story about the illegal prescription of a fatal painkiller would have greatly benefited from longer takes, deeper characters and more thoughtful subplots. The only redemanding quality of “Pain Hustlers” is Blunt’s exceptional performance. In fact, it may be the only reason to watch the film.  

Unfortunately, Blunt’s fantastic performance is not enough to save all the poor creative decisions made by the filmmakers. Not even Blunt’s well-loved co-star Evans is able to provide any light to this dull movie. 

Overall Grade: D- 

Related posts