Supposedly inspired by true events, Crisis tells three interconnecting stories set amidst America’s opioid epidemic, and in an attempt to establish itself alongside similarly themed films such as Traffic (2000) and 21 Grams (2003), peters out of steam merely moments from its beginning.
Armie Hammer plays a narcotics cop running an undercover operation and is on the cusp of bringing down an elusive drug baron. Meanwhile, Evangeline Lilly plays a drug-dependent mother out for revenge and whose son’s death by overdose appears to have been under suspicious circumstances. And then there’s Gary Oldman, a university professor who blows the whistle on the big pharmaceutical company who are putting a new wonder drug to market despite his evidence of it being dangerous.
I would call Crisis ambitious if it weren’t for its lack of conviction. It is a film that wants to align itself with so many great drug trade and whistleblower movies, and yet puts little effort into actually competing for comparison. The first sign of trouble comes by way of production design and a complete lack of aesthetic. With no compelling scenery, backdrops or locations, the three stories arrive to the screen in a lacklustre fashion, failing to resonate. And with an ineffective and forgettable music score to accompany the narrative, there’s a strong sense that what’s unfolding might as well have come from a late-night television programming schedule.
Furthermore, the screenplay from writer/director Nicholas Jarecki (Arbitrage) is, simply put, daft. Ignoring the script’s stilted dialogue for a moment, all its moving parts are laid bare for all to see, much like a machine with a hamster-wheel turning where intricate cogs and sprockets ought to be. Every creative decision made within the script feels like a shortcut, and what should be a well-laid plan to progress the stories from one point to the next, seems more like an indolent series of conveniences. Suffice to say, Crisis lacks both depth and integrity.
The ensemble cast is perplexing given how inadequate the script is, and while it might be fair to not expect too much from certain names here, one wonders how the likes of Oldman and Hammer wound up working on this. No amount of awards or accolades from them can elevate the material, and regardless of Oldman’s executive producer credit, even he struggles to serve a decent performance. The rest of the cast looks impressive on paper also, with even the likes of Greg Kinnear, Luke Evans, Martin Donovan and Michelle Rodriguez struggling to make head to tails of the material.
If you go into Crisis anticipating another Sicario (2015), be prepared to be sorely disappointed. You will need to lower your expectations exponentially, and when you reach the murky depths of a movie like Formula 51 (2001) … yeah, keep heading south. There are little to no redeeming qualities to this uninspired and insipid mess. It’s a miracle that it hasn’t been fast tracked to the backend of a streaming service.
‘Crisis’ hits Australian cinemas on March 18th. In the US, ‘Crisis’ opened in limited cinemas on February 26th before heading to VOD/digital platforms on March 5th.