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'Pain Hustlers' (2023): An Opioid Crisis

What starts off as a success story for a single mother living below the poverty line, slowly begins to weave itself into a tangled web of greed, guilt, and destruction.

Pain Hustlers (2023)

3 / 5
3.5 / 5

The opioid crisis, fueled by the greed of big pharma pushing highly addictive and potent painkillers, has significantly impacted the United States, particularly states like Ohio. It has evolved into an epidemic, ensnaring innocent people in addiction as they seek medication that they know could be prescribed to them, provided they approach the right doctor. As long as drug companies continue to profit and their drugs are prescribed, they appear indifferent to the destructive consequences they are causing.

Pain Hustlers is based on a true story about a single mother, Liza Drake (Emily Blunt), living below the poverty line, and struggling to support her and her daughter Phoebe (Chloe Coleman). Grasping at straws, she comes across a job opening in pharmaceutical sales and, with the help of Pete Brenner (Chris Evans), gets the job. However, upon starting, she discovers that the company is on the brink of collapse. Undeterred, she sets out to convince local doctors to switch to their drug, Lonafen, but finds it nearly impossible as other companies have already sunk their claws into local scene. After persisting, she finally makes a breakthrough, gets her first script and single-handedly saves the company. 

The company experiences a boom as Lonafen gains popularity. Eager to capitalize on this success, the company recruits a horde of sales reps and embarks on a mission to dominate as many small Florida doctors’ offices as possible, ultimately making millions. However, the gleaming success starts to dim as Liz discovers that Lonafen is highly addictive, wreaking havoc on thousands of individuals and families. Determined to rectify her wrongs, Liz takes the initiative to approach the FBI, providing the evidence necessary to shut down their company. This action leads to the imprisonment of herself, Pete, and their boss.

This film offers a unique perspective on how the opioid crisis affected not only users, but the people distributing them. It paints a clear picture of why opioids are dangerous and how vulnerable people can be easily swept up in the high of using. On the other hand, it also shows how someone who genuinely wants to help people can lose sight of their original goals, distracted by the gleam of wealth. For a single mother to be able to abundantly provide for her daughter and herself for the first time in their lives, it would be difficult for anyone to turn down such an opportunity. Liz is a big enough person to realize her wrongs, to admit to them and hold herself accountable for her actions. Not something a lot of people could stomach doing.