I was writing up an interview I did last week with Crisis director, writer, producer and costar Nic Jarecki (Arbitrage). An hour ago I happened to click on his film’s Rotten Tomatoes page and damn near fell backward. Jesus H. Christ!
Remember Tom Hanks‘ League of Their Own moment when he exclaims “there’s no crying in baseball!”? That’s me right now except I’m saying to the critics “you guys can’t give a 26% RT rating to a film that’s ambitious and moderately gripping and narratively efficient for the most part…it deserves a pass, for God’s sake! You can say it has an issue or two but nothing fatal…c’mon, it’s more or less fine!
“Are you dumping on it because Armie ‘Cunnilingus Cannibal’ Hammer is easy pickings right now? That’s not fair at all, and besides Hammer’s performance is perfectly sturdy and approvable.”
I know when I’m seeing a film that’s so cloying and clumsy and stupid that it drives me up the wall. That’s how I felt after seeing Pete Docter‘s Soul, and it got a 95% RT rating. Because it’s the first animated Pixar feature to focus on an African-American character, and so everyone loved it despite an infuriating plotline. I certainly didn’t “enjoy” sitting through J. Bklakeson‘s I Care A Lot, a broadly performed dark comedy about a predatory, court-appointed guardian of older people (Rosamund Pike), but the RT critics gave it an 81% rating.
In a fair and just world Soul would have earned a 45% rating, I Care A Lot might have gotten a 70% score and Crisis (Quiver, 2.26) would have cruised through to, say, an 82% score. Is Crisis as good as Steven Soderbergh‘s Traffic? No, but it’s smart and well assembled. This movie does not deserve to die! But it looks like it might, partly because of what the RT gang is saying right now.
It’s Armie Hammer. I know it’s Armie Hammer. The bastards are figuring “okay, the industry is giving him the temporary boot and he’s a rich white guy so I can trash this all I want and nobody will say anything.”
One of the fairest reviews I can find was penned by whattowatch.com’s Todd Gilchrist. “There’s nothing sexy about Crisis at all,” he begins. “Certainly in comparison to other drug trafficking operations and their perpetrators chronicled on television and in film, watching a kid cross the Canadian border with a backpack full of pills isn’t very exciting. But projected against the backdrop of this ‘invisible’ epidemic, writer-director Nicholas Jarecki aims to tell his very own Traffic by exploring the way that the pharmaceutical industry has become a legitimate face overshadowing what has become a cutthroat, lucrative and most of all destructive criminal enterprise.
“Earnest, predictably urgent performances by Gary Oldman, Armie Hammer and Evangeline Lilly help the audience navigate through just three arenas of this crisis — in boardrooms, the streets and suburban neighborhoods — while Jarecki creates a latticework that’s suitably complex but nevertheless doesn’t fully connect the dots between them.”
HE comment: A movie that “doesn’t fully connect the dots” doesn’t mean “eeww, it stinks!” It means “it’s not perfect but it’s not bad!”
Gilchrist: “Hammer plays Jake Kelly, an undercover federal agent trying to broker a multi-million-dollar deal for Fentanyl between his Armenian partners and a mysterious Canadian supplier named ‘Mother.’ Meanwhile, Lilly plays Claire Reimann, a recovering Oxycodone addict whose son dies under mysterious circumstances, prompting her to investigate what happened after the police label it accidental. And Oldman plays Tyrone Brower, a university professor who finds himself battling the pharmaceutical giant that provides his research funding after a test of one of their new, supposedly non-addictive pain killers produces some alarming results.”
In other words, a suspenseful cop thriller, a mother-son revenge drama and a corporate malfeasance and political corruption deal all in one.
A few weeks ago I called Crisis “a mostly effective, better-than-decent, Traffic-like drama about the opioid plague…skillfully wrought, multi-charactered thing about the intrigues and ravages of an unsavory trade.” Oh, right…I’ve said that.
HE’s own Bob Strauss recently wrote that while Crisis “is claimed to be inspired by true events, and drops knowledge about ways dangerous drugs get made, smuggled and sometimes approved at the highest government levels despite their life-destroying risk factors, it’s mostly built to get us off on suspense and the easy rewards of moral outrage.
“This smart, clearly well-researched movie satisfies in some ways, [and] feels diluted in others. Its pacing is most impressive. Jarecki keeps three more-or-less distinct, complicated narrative threads barreling along with little to no muddling, and knows when he needs to slow down to clarify information or spotlight emotions. Problems arise when the storytelling falls back on boilerplate dialogue and predictable plot turns.”
I wrote a while back that “I don’t know how Crisis would have fared critically or commercially if the pandemic hadn’t hit, but I know two things. One, Crisis (originally called Dreamland) deserves everyone’s respect, and two, it doesn’t deserve to contend with so much as a single Armie Hammer joke.
“Whatever Hammer might have gotten wrong in terms of excessive zeal or showing a lack of sensitivity or consideration for this or that B & D partner, his troubles are his own turf’s. No overlap, leave it alone.
“The same consideration should, of course, be given to the other two Hammer films opening this year — Kenneth Branagh‘s Death on the Nile (20th Century, 9.17) and Taika Waititi Next Goal Wins, which will probably “open” during the ’21 and early ’22 award season.”
Deadline‘s Pete Hammond: “Jarecki is making his first feature film since the impressive Arbitrage, which took on the very topical financial crisis, so this is a filmmaker with a lot on his mind, and that is a good thing. We could use a few more Stanley Kramers.
“He also was able to cast this effectively. Oldman, as you might expect, is excellent here, so is Lilly, and Hammer is very fine as well, the latter in the midst of a career crisis himself. Real-life problems aside, I thought the actor handled this role very effectively.”
In short, please disregard what the RT thugs are saying and give poor Crisis a chance.