By Mario Dhingsa
Dissection & Reflection’s rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Revenge remains one of the strongest motives in story-telling. It is a theme that immediately captivates the viewer. It asks us, in no uncertain terms, would we be any different? If my daughter had died from a painkiller overdose, what would I do? If her doctor was still over-prescribing this medication, what would I do? If over 70% of all deaths from narcotics use were due to opioid painkillers, what would I do? If no one else is doing anything about it, what can be done?
Mark Savage’s excellent film ‘Painkiller’ shares a common theme with Alexander Nanau’s multi-Oscar-nominated documentary, ‘Collective’. Both are confronting systematic failings in national health care and government regulation. But whereas ‘Collective’ shows us the light that can be shone from investigative journalism, ‘Painkiller’ shows us the fire that can burn from personal rage.
‘Painkiller’ is an astonishing revenge thriller, and can hold its head up high with the best of them. ‘Painkiller’ captures the tragedy of ‘Falling Down’, the wrath of ‘The Punisher’, and the brooding of ‘Batman Begins’. Set in Tampa, Florida - which bears more of a resemblance to Gotham City as the story progresses – the film charts a one-man-retribution across the full spectrum of pharmaceutical villians, from the CEOs running the show to the pushers in the playgrounds. That the film remains enthralling to watch is due to the writing by Tom Parnell, Mark Savage and David Richardson; a superb score thanks to Glen Gabriel; beautiful visuals courtesy of David Richardson; sharp editing due to Christopher Roth; and impressive direction all down to Mark Savage.
The film deservedly reminds us that ‘A good cast is worth repeating’, and ‘Painkiller’ is no exception. Bill Oberst Jr, as the grieving father who has found a dangerous equilibrium in his life, does a phenomenal job of making his character’s two distinctive personas believable, fascinating, wounded, and lethal. Michael Paré, as the antagonist surgeon, displays a wonderful sleight-of-hand in showing us a man who appears to have everything but in fact has very little. Kristina Beringer is terrifying, and yet still incredibly touching, as a calculating ex-wife. Khalimah Gaston plays an increasingly desperate police detective. And Tom Parnell, who was my favourite character, charts a masterful journey from disgraced doctor to something quite different indeed.
If there are flaws with the film, there are a few threads in the third act that may not have been resolved to everyone’s liking, and some plot inconsistencies that may be apparent. But this is not to detract from the movie’s grand achievements.
‘Painkiller’ is a movie that is certainly worth your time. It is a fascinating revenge thriller that’s fighting for more than just your attention. It’s fighting to change a system. And it’s fighting to save a live.
Twitter handle: @MarioDhingsa