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"Body Brokers" is a stirring drama about the opioid crisis with a starry cast.
Opioid addiction is one of the biggest crises facing this nation right now. “Body Brokers” (available in limited theatrical release and on VOD beginning Friday Feb. 19) tackles the problem and those who prey upon the afflicted in a head-on manner.
Utah (Jack Kilmer, son of Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley) and Opal (Alice Englert, daughter of director Jane Campion) are a pair of junkies living in Columbus, Ohio subsiding by sticking up convenience stores and Opal prostituting herself. Wood (Michael Kenneth Williams), sensing that these kids are struggling, offers to buy the pair a meal and propositions them to take a flight to Los Angeles in order to enter a rehabilitation facility. Opal has zero interest in the offer whereas Utah bites because he’s sick of the life.
Utah’s checked into the clinic by a kindly nurse named May (Jessica Rothe of the “Happy Death Day” movies) and is soon ushered into a group therapy session overseen by Dr. White (Melissa Leo). The facility is owned by Vin (my main man Frank Grillo), himself a recovering addict. Vin narrates the picture with voiceover reminiscent of “The Big Short” breaking down how “caregivers” scam the insurance industry to line their own pockets without actually assisting their patients. In spite of this, Utah thrives in rehab. Now clean, he works with Wood and for Vin recruiting users into treatment centers and shuttling patients to the office of Dr. Riner (‘90s mainstay Peter Greene) for Naltrexone implants that will later be removed. Utah also enters into a relationship with May.
I wasn’t especially familiar with Kilmer coming into this flick having only seen him in Shane Black’s “The Nice Guys.” He looks a good deal like his Pop and also reminded me a bit of the actor Shawn Hatosy (who you might remember from late ‘90s movies “The Faculty” and “Outside Providence”) in his younger years. Kilmer’s Utah is utterly sympathetic even when both he and the audience know he’s doing wrong. You root for the kid as he’s grappling with his own sense of decency.
I knew Williams was in the movie going in, but had no idea he was ostensibly the second lead, which made me very happy. Williams is one of my favorite working actors having played Omar Little on “The Wire” (arguably one of the greatest characters featured in any medium IMHO). Wood isn’t as altruistic as he initially seems, but you never get the feeling he doesn’t care about Utah in spite of using him. This is a credit to Williams’ abilities as he’s always flourished in playing the gray areas of a character’s psyche. Williams’ wardrobe is also a sight to behold chock full of Western wear (cowboy boots and hats, big-ass belt buckles, bolo ties). Ever since he appeared on Sundance TV’s “Hap and Leonard,” Williams seems to have gotten a knack for dressing like he’s Charley Pride, which I’ve got no beef with as he looks like a boss doing it.
Kilmer and Williams are ably supported by their castmates. Englert excels at being truly unlikable as the hugely hissable Opal. Rothe and Leo lend some much-needed warmth to these dark proceedings. Grillo and Greene exude a scummy sleaziness that exemplifies the absolute worst of the treatment industry.
“Body Brokers” is written and directed by John Swab (best known for the Marilyn Manson vehicle “Let Me Make You a Martyr”). It’s an angry movie and with damned good reason. An addict’s sobriety shouldn’t be sold to the highest bidder. Actual recovery should take precedence over simply filling beds.