KSL Movie Show review: ‘Pain Hustlers’ on Netflix

Oct 28, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: Jan 4, 2024, 3:28 pm


SALT LAKE CITY — When you play Captain America in nearly a dozen movies, you start to think about a few things.  You learn that you can’t play that role forever. So unless you’re willing to call it a career in your late 30s, you’re going to have to play something else – preferably against type so you don’t get pigeon-holed doing the same kind of hero-worshipping roles forever.

The reason I bring this up is that Chris Evans did some soul-searching as his Captain America gig was winding down.  So he gets a small part in a popular whodunit film “Knives Out” where he plays a self-centered, wise-cracking cad, then a couple of years later he’s a sociopath named Lloyd with a trash ‘stache in “The Gray Man” and now he’s a sleazy middle-management, pharma exec Pete who will do anything to make a sale.

The point is, he’s come a long way from those Captain days and if you want to keep those fond memories, this probably isn’t your movie.

In fact, “Pain Hustlers” sort of runs parallel to “The Wolf of Wall Street” – both movies featuring excesses in power, wealth, and debauchery.  The “Wolf” centers on the stock market, while “Hustlers” slithers its way into the world of opioids.

Liza Drake (Emily Blunt) is a single mom with a bright kid Phoebe (Chloe Coleman) who is so down on her luck that she’s forced to live in her sister’s garage for a time and when she gets a couple of nickels to rub together, she and Chloe splurge for a room at a dive motel.  

As a cocktail waitress in a strip club, she meets Pete Brenner (Chris Evans) who is immediately impressed with her aggressive, savvy behavior around troublesome customers.  He leaves a card.  She shows up at his office the next day and insists Pete and his eccentric boss Dr. Neel (Andy Garcia) give her a chance at pharmaceutical sales.  How tough can it be? 

She quickly discovers it’s a cutthroat business where the keys to success lie in landing busy doctors who will write lots of prescriptions for – in their case – Lonaphen – a fast-acting pain med for cancer patients. 

Long story short, Liza’s ingenuity creates enormous wealth for the company, but unlike “Wolf of Wall Street” which made its millions off of suckering rube investors risking their life savings, “Pain Hustlers” makes its millions off the addiction of patients risking their actual lives.  It’s a bit more difficult to make that drastic of a mood swing – from wow, look at all the money we’re making to gee, sure wish these nice people WEREN’T DYING.

Even the best acting (and there’s plenty of it here) can’t make an audience fully sympathize with these morally delusional characters – which makes one think – gosh that was a pretty good movie.  So why don’t I feel any better about having watched it? 

That, in a nutshell, is the dilemma of “Pain Hustlers.”

PAIN HUSTLERS (R) for some sexual content, drug use, nudity and language throughout. Starring Emily Blunt, Chris Evans, Andy Garcia, Chloe Coleman and Catherine O’Hara. Directed by David Yates (directed four Harry Potter films and three Fantastic Beasts movies) – filmed in Central Florida. Streaming on Netflix. 122 minutes.  

The KSL Movie Show with Andy Farnsworth and Steve Salles airs Fridays on KSL NewsRadio from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Follow the show on Facebook, and join The KSL Movie Show Club for exclusive perks by texting MOVIE to 57500.

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KSL Movie Show review: ‘Pain Hustlers’ on Netflix