A drug picture that is both sober and overdosed.

Other critics have been comparing “Crisis” to Steven Soderbergh’s “Traffic,” because it also uses a star-studded cast to focus on the war on drugs. So, I’ll be doing some comparing and contrasting in my review, and if it feels derivate, I apologize.

Like “Traffic,” “Crisis” is told in three intertwining stories that focus on opioids, but unlike that masterpiece, this one is a mixed bag for me. There are two stories you understand for the most part, whereas the one has nowhere to go and nothing to fully comprehend. It’s a well-made but convoluted picture with elements we’ve seen done better before, and wish they could have been better handled here.

You have Armie Hammer as a DEA agent named Kelly, who goes undercover as a drug trafficker dealing with the aftermath of his courier (Charles Champagne) being busted at the Canadian border; Evangeline Lily as a former druggie and single mother named Claire Reimann, who is trying to solve her son’s (Billy Bryk) drug-induced death; and Gary Oldman as a university professor named Dr. Tyrone Brower, who is trying to help the head of a drug company (Luke Evans) get his new product FDA approved, while finding himself in legal danger regarding an old sexual harassment claim and him planning to reveal the truth about the drug.

The all-star supporting cast also includes Greg Kinnear as the university’s dean, who warns Brower not to threaten his career, Michelle Rodriguez as a curious DEA supervisor, who tells Kelly to handle his situations maturely, Kid Cudi as an FDA agent, whom Brower contacts, and Lily Rose-Depp as Kelly’s junkie sister, who checks herself out of rehab to ruin her life. Ericka Christensen was much better in that particular role in “Traffic.”

“Crisis” was written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki, in his first feature since the entertaining “Arbitrage.” Here, he does an effective job with guiding Hammer and Lilly with various aspects. They keep you involved when the former tries to expose the real criminals, who in this case is an Orson Welles lookalike (Guy Nadon), and when the latter wants to avenge her son’s death, because she knows he was murdered. It’s usually the case when clean guys are dead from deadly drugs.

But Jarecki doesn’t supply them or Oldman with enough basis or understanding. It’s basically one random situation after another. The professor knows the drug won’t be FDA approved, he has to expose the truth, and deal with a harassment claim. It all jumbles together and barely has any pay-offs. That wasn’t the case with Steven Soderbergh’s work, which balances all the intertwining stories, and creates vivid characters dealing with various situations. I watched “Traffic” the other day, and I was marveled by his unique filmmaking styles; I watched “Crisis” last night, and I was wasn’t as enthralled as I should have been.

I guess there’s nothing less to say, except it doesn’t fully deliver on the premise. It overdoses on it.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4.

Now Playing in Select Theaters

Premieres On Demand Next Friday

Categories: Drama, Thriller

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