When I look back at Crisis years from now, the most standout thing about it will be the perplexity I felt at how it gathered such an acting pedigree for such a mundane effort.
How a film about the very real opioid epidemic in our country could become a paint-by-numbers retread of 2000’s Traffic is beyond me. This was a topic ripe for an involving, disquieting and passionate drama, but it manages to come out bland.
It uses the now-commonplace plot device of looking at a topic from three distinct character perspectives, so it can show many sides to the same conundrums and issues. The problem is none of the stories are developed enough to be interesting and none of them connect into any sort of tangible, cohesive narrative.
One of them is about a drug trafficker bringing fentanyl from the U.S. to Canada who is caught – and a mother whose son is peripherally connected to the man who tracks the drug ring as she looks into her own kid’s overdose. Sound complicated and unnecessary? That’s because it is.
The other is about an FBI agent undercover as a drug trafficker who’s trying to bring down the cartel, and the third is about a professor who warns about the addictive properties of a painkiller he developed to try to keep it off the market.
They’re all loosely tied together, but by the time the pieces begin to be put in place, honestly, you won’t really care. They’re three vignettes that might have been better off as three, fleshed out movies. Then again, do I want to watch Crisis thrice? I think you know the answer.
The performances, at least, are solid. They’re unremarkable, but any time you put Gary Oldman in a movie, at least his scenes will entertain. Also enter Armie Hammer, who tries to disappear into this role, but unfortunately his Instagram conduct couldn’t really allow me to escape into his ‘sympathetic’ turn as an FBI agent at all.
Perhaps most effective is Evangeline Lily as the former addict mother searching for the drug peddlers responsible for her son’s death. Supporting turns from Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans and Greg Kinnear all help even things out.
It’s not that Crisis is a bad film – it’s that it strives for greatness and falls far from it. It had a chance to take an important topic and do something meaningful, and director-writer Nicholas Jarecki just couldn’t be bothered.
The real crisis here is that it’s made boring a pandemic that it should have sought to raise alarm bells about. If it had worried more about activating the social conscience of its viewers than trying to weave in three ridiculous plotlines, it might have actually achieved some emotional resonance.