Pain Hustlers review: High potential low impact

Netflix’s Pain Hustlers explores the hazardous developments around the American opioid crisis. The story zooms in on Liza Drake, whose life takes a dramatic turn after being recruited by a high-ranking pharmaceutical executive. This association pushes her into a whirlwind of events related to the larger epidemic sweeping the nation.


Set in the sun-soaked backdrop of Florida in 2011, Pain Hustlers draws you into the tumultuous life of Liza Drake, portrayed by Emily Blunt. As a dedicated single mother, Liza grapples daily with the challenges of providing for her teenage daughter, Phoebe.

Their financial hardships see them relocating to a less-than-reputable motel, where safety and comfort are secondary concerns. In an act of sheer desperation, Liza finds herself working the dimly lit stages of a strip club, where fate introduces her to Pete Brenner, played by Chris Evans.

Pete, a key player at the pharmaceutical behemoth, Zanna, sees potential in Liza and offers her an opportunity to change her circumstances. Initially skeptical, Liza’s deepening financial abyss propels her to reconsider and she steps into the corridors of the pharmaceutical industry.

However, as Liza climbs the corporate ladder and starts to taste the life she’s always dreamt of for herself and Phoebe, she’s oblivious to the looming storm.

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The drug she passionately promotes soon becomes a menacing agent of addiction, casting a long, dark shadow over Zanna and changing the course of her life once again.


Emily Blunt emerges as the beating heart of Pain Hustlers, carrying the film on her capable shoulders. She dives deep into the character, embodying the spirit of a desperate mother grappling with life’s harshest trials.

Her journey, which oscillates from the depths of poverty to the glittering heights of wealth and then spirals into controversy, is rendered authentic and palpable by her nuanced performance.

While Blunt shines, Chris Evans, in his portrayal of Pete Brenner, seems trapped by the limitations of the screenplay. Despite the potential richness of his character, the film’s writing doesn’t give him enough room to explore and showcase his full range, leaving his talents underutilized.

The film also enlists seasoned actors like Andy Garcia and Catherine O’Hara, but their limited appearances become mere blips in the narrative. These veterans, despite their proven prowess, end up delivering performances that can, at best, be described as average.


While Pain Hustlers’ strengths might be sparse, there are still some notable highlights.

The narrative’s exploration of a mother’s relentless battles and her persistent drive to create a brighter future for her daughter is commendably presented.

Director David Yates dives with sensitivity into Liza’s aspirations, not just for personal betterment but also for her ambition to uplift other women who tread the same rocky path as hers.

Moreover, the moral predicaments Liza confronts throughout the story introduce a few layers of complexity, giving the film a hint of depth and making it more than just a linear tale.


Taking on the topic of the Opioid Crisis after standout projects like Dopesick and Painkiller was undoubtedly a challenging task, and unfortunately, Pain Hustlers seems to pale in comparison.

Opting to play it safe, the film fails to delve deeply into its subject matter, leaving audiences craving a more profound insight. The screenplay disappointingly lacks strength, and the characters, even the protagonist Liza, don’t receive the layered exploration they deserve.

Instead of shedding light on Liza’s multifaceted humanity, the story fixates on her financial desperation, sidelining the broader consequences of her choices.

The narrative’s emphasis on the corporate angle over the personal stories causes the film to miss out on an essential touch of human connection.

Sadly, David Yates, known for his enchanting Harry Potter directorial ventures, couldn’t sprinkle the same magic on this project, resulting in a film that might quickly fade from viewers’ memories.


Pain Hustlers offers a glimpse into the Opioid Crisis, but falls short of its potential. While Emily Blunt delivers a compelling performance, the screenplay’s superficial exploration of characters and the narrative’s corporate focus hinder its impact.

Pain Hustlers
Pain Hustlers review: High potential low impact 1

Director: David Yates

Date Created: 2023-10-28 15:15

Editor's Rating:

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