Capsule Review: Crisis (2021)

I wasn’t aware of the existence of Crisis (formerly titled Dreamland) until recently. Written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki (2012’s Arbitrage starring Richard Gere), the movie spreads into multiple plot threads — three, to be exact — covering the topical subject matter related to America’s opioid epidemic.

Here, the movie focuses on three primary characters, beginning with Jake Kelly (Armie Hammer), an undercover DEA agent working hard to bring down the drug lords responsible for the opioid-smuggling operation.

The next one involved Claire Reimann (Evangeline Lilly), both a recovering opioid addict and a grieving mother who’s out looking for the truth after his son dies from an apparent drug overdose.

Finally, the third character — Dr Tyrone Brower (Gary Oldman) — is a university professor who is hired by a big pharmaceutical company to conduct a new drug test supposedly in the final stage ready to market as “the first non-addictive painkiller”. But following his lab assistant’s latest discovery about the new drug’s side effects, Brower isn’t confident to let the company release the product to the public. Of course, no one including the company’s exec (Luke Evans) is looking to back out — a result that forced Brower to take action by exposing the truth.

Given the subject matter and its sprawling narrative backed by a star-studded cast, Crisis immediately reminds me of Steven Soderbergh’s acclaimed war-on-drugs crime epic Traffic (2000). But unlike the latter, Jarecki’s latest movie lacks both dramatic urgency and above all, emotional poignancy to make us root for the characters. It’s all surface-level storytelling, albeit the number of potentials that Jarecki could have achieved here. While he does a decent job keeping things moving with his constantly on-the-move camerawork even during some of the static moments, the overall plot feels generic.

The same also goes with the cast and despite decent performances from all three main stars (Hammer, Lilly and Oldman), they clearly deserved better if not for their underdeveloped characters.