Body Brokers follows drug addict Utah as he is taken to Los Angeles for treatment. When he gets there, he soon learns that the rehab centre he is in is not all about helping people, but is actually a cover for a multi-billion-dollar fraud operation that enlists addicts to recruit other addicts.
The film is based on true events, but like all films based on true events, this isn’t a true story. This is a narrative of fictionalized events set on the background of exposing the corruption of the drug recovery industry.
Frank Grillo’s narrator voice firmly pushes the story along, offering glimpses into the murky and shockingly profitable world of American healthcare and the failings of the Affordable Care Act. The overall arc of the film is that drug use is big business and that patients are simply cash-generating commodities, to be used, re-used and discarded, just like dirty needles. It’s certainly not a nice film in terms of its message or content, but it tries to educate as well as entertain.
There is a good glance the lives of drug addicts too, as well as the desperate and devastating lengths they will go to for a fix. This is intertwined with the overall arc of drug rehab being a bit like Weight Watchers or Slimming World. They want you to succeed, but their profitability is built on your inevitable failure.
Writer/director John Swab offers a fair, if not a somewhat simplified and cleansed version, of drug use at times, offering fact to go with the fiction to push his eye-opening personal narrative. This narrative, the whole story and its presentation that peaked my initial interest, gets lost somewhere and never really hits hard enough, or offers such shocking truths that you will remember them. The personal journey of Utah takes you away from the message as its impact gets lost as the films laboured, somewhat drawn-out existence reflects the general mood of the films characters. There’s a few twists and some good character development thrown in it just goes down a path where you lose interest. Like the film says at the end, nobody will do anything about societies drug problems so any point the film tries to make comes across about as well as pissing in the wind.
There are some good performances in there. Michael Kenneth Williams is (as always) solid while Alice Englert is thoroughly believable, yet shamefully underused. Jessica Rothe, Melissa Leo and Frank Grillo all do admirable jobs in their various supporting roles. Grillo however, is another who is vastly underused but his narrative work suits the film splendidly. I know very little about the films lead, Jack Kilmer, but he performs solidly throughout, despite being in desperate need of a haircut.
In truth, this could just be another generic film about a young man’s addiction, but by presenting it from a new perspective, it gives a rush of entertainment before the over-winded comedown. It all too often follows similar drug-film narratives and uses other films as inspiration for its presentation. By no means a bad, or even unenjoyable film, but a missed opportunity to delve down a much deeper, much more interesting rabbit hole of truth.
Signature Entertainment presents Body Brokers on Digital Platforms in the UK from March 8th 2021.