Under the best of circumstances, writer/director Nicholas Jarecki's Crisis was going to be a hard sell. While moviegoing audiences will certainly pack the theaters for a solid crime thriller, a crime thriller wrapped around the current and timely opioid crisis is destined to be a tough one.
Then, you toss in a worldwide pandemic keeping those same moviegoers out of those theater seats.
Oh, and yeah, we dare not forget a certain ill-timed Armie Hammer public relations nightmare.
I can't help but pity the folks from Quiver Distribution just a bit. The indie distributor, no stranger to handling tough sells, has their hands full with this ambitious crime thriller with intertwining stories all tied together in a not so neat cinematic bow by the current opioid crisis. Filled to the brim with an all-star cast, Crisis is an attractive motion picture if not an entirely successful one. Jarecki tries to accomplish a lot here, too much really, and any one of these story threads more fully developed would have made for a much more compelling motion picture.
Hammer's story seems to be the most dominant one here, at least early on. Armie is Jake Kelly, an undercover DEA agent working to expose a Quebec-to-Michigan pipeline for illegal opioids. Unfortunately, controversies for Hammer aside, Hammer's also the weak link here. Hammer has never really had much of an emotional range. So, when you saddle him with a script full of dialogue where he essentially mansplains opioids over and over again it gets more than a little bit tiresome by the film's just under two-hour end point.
On the flip side, I'd sit and watch a film about Evangeline Lilly's story all day long. Her Claire Reimann is in recovery, a recovery threatened by her son's tragic overdose that sends her down the rabbit hole of searching for the truth about his death. Lilly gives one of her best performances here, a raw and vulnerable tour-de-force that becomes increasingly engaging over the course of the film.
Finally, there's Gary Oldman. Oldman is stuck somewhere in the middle. He's not given a whole lot to do, but he does it a whole lot more convincingly than Hammer. As Dr. Bower, Oldman runs an animal research project for big pharma but trouble brews when the results are unexpected and big pharma essentially demands his silence.
Again, Crisis could have been an incredibly compelling film taking the journey with any single one of these storylines. Trying to follow all three of them? It's a recipe for disaster that results in character development being shorted and a less than thrilling crime thriller.
You'll recognize some of the supporting players here.
Lily-Rose Depp. Greg Kinnear. Mia Kirshner. Michelle Rodriguez. Luke Evans.
This is truly an all-star cast uniting in service to the cause. The cause, of course, being Jarecki's well-meaning effort to call out and to call to account the opioid industry. Among those supporting players, Kinnear particularly excels in his rare opportunity to go a bit darker than usual.
Crisis isn't a bad film, though neither is it particularly the film it probably should have been. It's a mid-range thriller with some absolutely terrific performances, a hit-and-miss script, and a handful of performances that can't quite overcome Jarecki's dialogue that burdens the film rather than actually serving it.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic