Rich on drug addicts and money, but poor on the script.
For a movie to use drug rehab patients as mules for their money-laundering, I’ve expected more out of “Body Brokers.” It feels like something Martin Scorsese has done better with “Goodfellas” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and I like to imagine if how fearless and breathtaking the results would be if he made this, instead of writer/director John Swab.
We meet two young heroin addicts in Ohio named Utah (Jack Kilmer) and Opal (Alice Englert), both of whom come across a former addict named Wood (Michael Kenneth Williams), who recommends the same rehab he attended to them. Utah is the one who wants to get cleaned, while Opal thinks he’s crazy for trusting him. So, he travels to Los Angeles to the facility, known as New West Recovery, which consists of the nurse May (Jessica Rothe), the psychiatrist Dr. White (Melissa Leo), and the CEO Vin Lawler (Frank Grillo). Utah is scared of what happens to him when he gets better, but he discovers the place he commits himself to isn’t what it seems.
No, Nurse Ratched isn’t abusing the patients. No, there aren’t any stalkers disguising themselves as doctors. And no, the main protagonist isn’t a U.S. Marshall finding out he’s a patient there (obviously). It’s more like “The Wolf of Wall Street” with Jordan Belfort and his money-laundering games.
Lawler serves as the film’s narrator, as he reveals to the audience how this facility actually runs a money fraud operation recruits addicts to have other addicts commit themselves in. This place isn’t meant to help people get better; they just need patients to get their money games on track. Wood works for them, and puts Utah under his wing.
The character Utah is depicted as a mellow dope, who never rises to the occasion. For instance, he basically just takes crap from his ex-girlfriend Opal, who calls him a “p*ssy” for leaving her for rehab, when in actuality, she was the one who chose to keep destroying herself. The scene when she tells him that, he should have verbally fought back by saying: she chose to stay, but he doesn’t. Jack Kilmer is Val’s son, and he was excellent in this small independent film (James Franco wrote) called “Palo Alto,” but in “Body Brokers,” he lacks the flexibility and emotions of Ray Liotta’s portrayal of Henry Hill in “Goodfellas.”
The only actors I’ve admired in the movie are Williams, who delivers bold dialogue and a risky attitude, Grillo, who channels Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Jordan Belfort with his fast-talking and tough flexibility, and Rothe, who connects well with the main protagonist.
I acknowledge that drug addicts tend to come and go, as they either can clean themselves or destroy themselves, but these addicts have no sympathy or choices. That’s what drugs and money will do to you. They make the choices for you, and that’s what the movie tries to convey. Unfortunately, it has to be presented in a lackluster and underwritten manner, and the results never seem to fully deliver on its premise.