First, we had Dopesick on Disney+, then Painkiller on Netflix. Audiences will now get a third dose of pharmaceutical drama in the new movie Pain Hustlers, continuing the theory that TV may have an addiction to pill-popping storytelling.
While the previous two opioid-filled releases were episodic, Pain Hustlers takes the form of a feature film, with a starry cast in tow and long-time Harry Potter director David Yates at the helm.
Read more: New on Netflix in October 2023
How will this new movie set itself apart from what’s come before and avoid becoming just another repeat prescription?
Read on for all the key details, including its plot, cast, trailers and when you can find it on your telly.
How to watch Pain Hustlers
Pain Hustlers is available to stream now on Netflix, following its release date of Friday, 27 October.
Is Pain Hustlers based on a true story?
It is. The story of Pain Hustlers is loosely based on the book of the same name by American author Evan Hughes.
Originally titled The Hard Sell, the novel started life as an article by Hughes which inspected the shady dealings of Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that sold a medicinal spray called Subsys that offered pain relief for those suffering from issues relating to cancer.
In order to get their product into the hands of as many patients as possible, the company relied upon a ‘speaker programme’ that effectively paid doctors to promote the use of this spray at events and recommend it to both patients and other medical representatives.
Unbeknownst to both was the fact that the pain-relieving element of the company’s spray-based product came via fentanyl, a drug that has proven to be highly addictive and resulted in devastating consequences for many users.
Before long, the impact of this operation became noticeable through America’s opioid crisis. In 2016, a number of Insys staff members, including its multi-millionaire CEO John Kapoor, were charged with crimes that spanned misleading advertising campaigns and conspiracy to bribe medical professionals in order to sell more of their product.
A year later, Kapoor was charged with a batch of extra crimes, including conspiracy to defraud health insurance operators regarding patients’ reasons for needing to use Sybsys.
In 2019, Kapoor was sentenced to five and a half years in prison shortly before Insys Therapeutics was forced to file for bankruptcy.
Pain Hustlers cast and plot
Emily Blunt stars as Liza Drake, a down-and-out single mother who takes what she believes to be an innocent job at a small pharmaceutical company in a run-down Florida mall.
However, it isn’t long before she discovers all isn’t as it should be in this supposedly quaint business. As the company’s boss becomes more and more unpredictable, Drake finds herself embroiled in a racketeering scheme and hot water that keeps getting hotter.
Meanwhile, the devastating impact that both the drugs the company itself is peddling is having on the local community is becoming harder and harder to ignore.
Inspecting the fine line between desperation and greed, Pain Hustlers takes aim at pharmaceutical companies but from the point of view of someone who is inadvertently swept up in the storm and forced to forced to question her morals as the dust begins to settle.
Acting opposite Blunt is Captain America himself, Chris Evans, as Pete Brenner, someone who Yates has described as a “sleazebag pharma sales rep.”
Elsewhere, Schitt’s Creek star Catherine O’Hara appears as Drake’s mother, alongside a number of ensemble players including Andy Garcia, Jay Duplass, Brian D’Arcy James, Chloe Coleman, Aubrey Dollar and Amit Shah.
Pain Hustlers reviews
Reviews for opioid drama Pain Hustlers have begun to land online and an overall consensus is starting to form about this big Pharma drama.
The Guardian highlights the movie's stark storytelling, discussing its ability to shock us with "gnarly details of an American system that puts far too much control over people’s wellbeing in the hands of those who care very little about it."
Over on IndieWire, their writer was quick to point out that it offered too much more of the same, calling it a "superficial crime drama that’s already been made about myriad other “victimless crimes” and get-rich-quick schemes just like it."
Read our full review line-up after the jump.
Variety: Emily Blunt and Chris Evans Say ‘Yes’ to Drugs in Taxing Satire of Opioid Slingers (5-min read)
The Guardian: Emily Blunt rises above clunky pharma drama (4-min read)
Deadline: Emily Blunt & Chris Evans In Chilling Movie That Explores The Dark Side Of Pharma Grifters (5-min read)
Pain Hustlers trailer
Released in early September, the manic first trailer for Pain Hustlers invites you into a world where excess appears to have overridden any sense of right or wrong, as Blunt's single mom Drank sinks deeper and deeper into an arena of prescription craziness that's just waiting to come crashing down.
Meanwhile, a second trailer for the movie was released on to X (formerly Twitter) in mid-October, showing us how the movie's focal point Liza Drake transforms her life by entering the world of big pharma.
Watch it below:
Hustle your way to the American dream.
Emily Blunt, Chris Evans, Catherine O'Hara and Andy Garcia star in Pain Hustlers, a sharp look at the blurred line between desperation and greed. Premiering October 27. pic.twitter.com/qQqhDnWGiN
— Netflix (@netflix) October 10, 2023
Pain Hustlers is available to watch now on Netflix.