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'Pain Hustlers' Review

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October 24, 2023
Hunter Friesen
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Pain Hustlers premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. Netflix releases it in theaters on October 20 before the film streams on October 27.

GMP: “Grey Matters Productions, how may I help you?”

N: “Hello, this is Netflix, we worked with you guys on The Laundromat and Yes Day a few years back and wanted to see if you were interested in partnering up again?”

GMP: “Oh hi Netflix! I gotta say I’m a little surprised you called since… well, let’s be honest, those two movies didn’t exactly pan out the way we planned.”

N: “I know, but we’re in the business of hitting quotas and churning out as much content as possible. Quality is a little lower on the hierarchy of needs. Plus, the third time is the charm, right?”

GMP: “I guess you’re right when you put it that way. So, what do you have in mind?”

N: “We’d like to make a movie about the opioid epidemic — a takedown of Big Pharma.”

GMP: “Hasn’t that already been done to death over the past few years? Hulu had that show Dopesick that won a couple of Emmys a few years ago, and Laura Poitras’ All the Beauty and the Bloodshed just won the Golden Lion at Venice last year for her story about Nan Goldin and the downfall of the Sackler family. It seems like the market is overly saturated and the bar has been set relatively high. Wait, didn’t you just release a show called Painkiller a few months ago about the Sacklers?”

N: “I’ll admit, we got beat to the market in this area. But we’re Netflix, we never let being late to the punch stop us from getting in on the action. Remember Red Notice? We did that after everyone was already getting sick of Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot. And we still gave Joe and Anthony Russo hundreds of millions to make The Gray Man after Cherry. No one else on the planet would do that besides us.”

GMP: “You do put your money where your mouth is, I’ll give you that. And at least you’re not Amazon. People actually watch the stuff you pour generations' worth of wealth into, even if they don’t like it. Speaking of the Russos and Amazon, did you see Citadel, supposedly the second-most-expensive show ever produced?”

N: “No, of course not! But we are giving them another $200 million to make another action-adventure movie starring Chris Pratt.”

GMP: “I don’t think you know what irony is. Whatever, alright, we can do this Big Pharma movie with you. We’ve got this book we bought the rights to called The Pain Hustlers about these two charismatic young people getting caught up in illegal pharmaceutical selling.”

N: “Awesome! Who should we get to direct this? We need it to be fun and palatable enough so people will look up from their phones on the couch. But we also need a simplistic message about how all of this is bad.”

GMP: “Okay, so you want something that’ll make it on your top 10 list on its opening weekend and then never to be talked about again?

N: “That’s our specialty!”

GMP: “Let’s see, Martin Scorsese did The Wolf of Wall Street a few years ago and that was a big success. You guys just worked with him on the The Irishman. Is there any chance you get him back? Or maybe Steven Soderbergh? I could get him on the phone and see if he’s interested.”

N: “No, those guys were expensive and wanted full control of their work. We’re moving towards directors that are just big of a name to be on the poster, but not big enough that we can still tell them exactly what to do.”

GMP: “[flipping through the rolodex] Well, there’s this guy called David Yates that’s available. He just came off the Fantastic Beasts trilogy so you can get him on the cheap. But he doesn’t have a discernable style, so he wouldn’t be a good fit for this angle you want.”

N: “Ehh, that doesn’t matter. We’ll take him! I think we can make up for it by having a couple hundred ChatGPT bots watch some Scorsese movies and then edit the film.”

GMP: “I don’t think that’s how that works, but it’s your money. Well since we cheaped out on the director, can we at least spend some decent money on the stars? After all, you have built your brand around paying ungodly amounts of money to movie stars. How about Emily Blunt and Chris Evans? Both charismatic actors and Evans checks off your obligatory Russo box.”

N: “That sounds good. Blunt will be great in the role. Can we make Evans do a vague Boston accent even though he’s terrible at it? Oh, and can we make this whole thing a mockumentary? All the kids love those!”

GMP: “I’ll let Evans do the accent because it would be fun to see him fail. But I don’t think the mockumentary angle is a good idea since that’s also been overplayed.”

N: “Well, The Office was too much of a success on our platform so we have to do it. Hmmm. Alright, we’ll just do half of it. Like, we’ll lean on it heavily in the opening and then drop it for an hour before abruptly bringing it back right at the end.”

GMP: “That seems a little haphazard and might mess with the tonal balance. But I get what you’re saying. You don’t want to mess with the algorithm. Alright, so I’ve got you down for the film rights, Yates, Blunt, and Evans. Your total will be $58 million, plus a few extra $10 million payments for marketing.”

N: “Wow, only $58 million?!? I guess this is what it feels like to be making indie movies?”

GMP: “Are you doing cash or card?”

N: “Can you just put it on my tab? I’ve already got $14 billion on there right now so it just makes sense to keep adding to that. Don’t worry, we’ll pay it off eventually.”

GMP: “I really shouldn’t since you still owe me for those other two movies, but what the hell, why not? Alright, we’ll have that order ready for you in October.”

N: “One more thing! Can you have it ready by September? I want to debut it at the Toronto International Film Festival and start the buzz rolling early.”

GMP: “Sure thing! We’ll just have to trim around the edges a little bit. You’ll probably lose about 10% in quality from what we already planned, but that doesn’t matter since we’re already making a movie no one will care about anyway!”

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