Home Movie Netflix’s OxyContin Sequence Is No ‘Dopesick’

Netflix’s OxyContin Sequence Is No ‘Dopesick’

Netflix’s OxyContin Sequence Is No ‘Dopesick’


This evaluation was written throughout the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. With out the labor of the writers and actors at present on strike, the sequence being lined right here would not exist.There’s something surreal about watching Netflix’s miniseries Painkiller — and never within the weird means it intends. For those who have seen the story of how the greed of the Sackler household decimated hundreds of lives by the introduction of OxyContin, beforehand informed in Hulu’s Dopesick (a much more measured and complete miniseries that got here out a few years in the past), there can be an unshakable sense of déjà vu. There are various of the identical real-life figures and narrative developments, in addition to an emphasis on how callous the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma have been in rolling out this drug. What separates the 2 is the execution with the writing, path, and common framing of this sequence all paling compared to the one already out on the planet. The issue isn’t simply that the perfunctory Painkiller is late to the sport; even when it’d come earlier than Dopesick, it could’ve been the lesser work. Nonetheless, the timing doesn’t do Painkiller any favors in working within the lengthy shadow of an infinitely higher sequence. It doesn’t add something new the place it ought to and solely finally ends up specializing in all of the fallacious issues that fully undercut the infinitesimally small trace of promise it had going for it.

Based mostly partially on Patrick Radden Keefe‘s excellent New Yorker article — price studying greater than this sequence is watching — every of the six episodes begins with higher compassion in a handful of minutes than the remainder of the present does writ giant as we hear from an actual one that misplaced somebody to OxyContin. From the very first episode, this then turns into jarring once we reduce from a crushing confessional to the bizarro world of Richard Sackler himself. Performed by a miscast Matthew Broderick, who by no means settles into the position, we observe him in older age as he awakens in his luxurious mansion whereas the sound of a smoke detector pierces by the silence. Cue Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” the primary odd track choice of many who serves because the accompaniment to him wandering round in quest of the supply of the beeping that is probably not actual. As we come to grasp over the sequence, he’s a person haunted by literal ghosts. That is expressed in scenes that regularly really feel misplaced, enjoying out as a hokey try at being edgy within the vein of a movie like The Massive Quick. The difficulty is that this does so with none of the wanted cleverness to drag such a gambit off. The one factor Painkiller achieves is it supplies an ideal instance of how to not inform this story.

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‘Painkiller’ Is Louder however Not Smarter

A group of cheerleaders dancing in front of Matthew Broderick
Picture through Netflix

Although one should not belabor evaluating the 2 sequence an excessive amount of — there might be some worth in seeing a number of takes on the identical story, and also you wouldn’t need one to repeat the opposite — it’s arduous to miss the obvious flaws on this hole exploration of a really actual downside. A lot of this hollowness stems from the casting, with Broderick by no means coming near how Michael Stuhlbarg introduced an off-the-cuff menace to his portrayal of Richard Sackler, but in addition the stiff structuring of the sequence is structured. Even when there’s a performer extra as much as the problem, like Uzo Aduba as Edie Flowers (who’s a fictional amalgamation of many individuals making an attempt to combat the Sacklers), there’s a sense they’re having to combat the writing they’ve been given. Not solely is it not good storytelling, with not one of the texture we received from Dopesick as we noticed the small print of the varied characters’ lives in much more depth, however it’s an incomplete portrait of the truth of this epidemic. Listening to Aduba give scene after scene of narration, achieved underneath the guise of a authorized technique assembly the present retains awkwardly chopping again to, is an unfailingly clunky means of offering the mandatory data for the story. It is all far too rote, as if we’re being learn a Wikipedia entry again to entrance, and the snarky tone the sequence tries to inject comes off as infantile. Painkiller doesn’t appear to belief its viewers to grapple with the grounded particulars of preventing towards all-consuming greed.

The place Dopesick felt extra consistent with a movie just like the richly detailed Darkish Waters in not skimping on the emotional expertise of taking over callous firms, this sequence is content material to offer an outline that by no means affords any higher perception. As an alternative, there are recurring photographs of Broderick strolling with a canine the place we get to see the canine’s balls. The case might be made that these scenes are supposed to present how Sackler himself is an insecure manchild, however they are not almost as incisive as this present appears to assume they’re. As Dopesick delicately but decisively revealed, the extra terrifying prospect is that these in energy are literally cruelly calculating and can do no matter they’ll to cling to the wealth that grants them their unchecked energy. Even as we speak, as seen in final 12 months’s illuminating documentary All of the Magnificence and the Bloodshed, justice continues to be briefly provide. The small moments we get with somebody just like the troubled Glen Kryger (performed by an underutilized Taylor Kitsch), whose life and household are perpetually impacted by the drug, are counteracted by all of the extra cartoonish components all through the remainder of the sequence. The harrowing and resonant truths uncovered all through Dopesick, whereas nonetheless imperfect in their very own means, regularly surpass something that’s being tried right here.

‘Painkiller’ Cuts Corners in Each Episode

Taylor Kitsch in Painkiller
Picture through Netflix

Greater than something, Painkiller feels unnecessarily slight in a basic sense. Characters are almost all made superficial and there’s a persistent lack of persistence that units the actors up for failure. By the point we get to the tip, all the things ties itself up a bit too neatly when the reality of this story is much extra difficult. The place lots of the remaining moments of Dopesick might be completely devastating in how they absolutely captured this, Painkiller peters out after already having a lackluster basis. There was a lot extra life felt within the earlier sequence that’s nearly completely absent right here. Dopesick appeared prefer it actually cared about taking its time to indicate the complete portrait of the destruction that was wrought on so many individuals, whereas this largely doesn’t. Whereas Painkiller was at all times prone to be the lesser of the 2 sequence, it is now clear it does not even come near the better-told model that’s on the market already.

Not solely did Dopesick beat Painkiller to the punch, but it surely additionally did so with much more emotional and thematic pressure behind it within the ways in which actually matter. The final time we see Sackler primarily speaking to himself right here, the one aid is we not should hearken to his shtick.

Ranking: D+

The Massive Image

  • Netflix’s miniseries Painkiller falls quick compared to Hulu’s Dopesick throughout the board with poor writing, path, and general presentation.
  • The sequence lacks depth, offering an incomplete portrait of the devastating OxyContin epidemic and specializing in all of the fallacious components.
  • The casting decisions and stiff storytelling contribute to the hollowness of a sequence that goes for edginess versus crafting real emotion solely to succeed at neither.

Painkiller is on Netflix beginning August 10.



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