It’s Death Wish meets the opioid crisis in this tense and exciting thriller starring two greats in Bill Oberst Jr. and Michael Pare.
Bill Johnson is a radio show host whose life has been turned upside down due to the recent opioid crisis. His daughter has fallen victim to the crisis, having died of a drug overdose. During the days, he goes on his radio show to address and speaks to others who have been affected by the crisis. Meanwhile, Dr. Alan Rhodes has been living a lavish lifestyle by supplying people painkillers, only caring about the money. His next step in getting a patent for a new heart medication is constantly thwarted by the creator of the medicine.
Bill has a bit of a secret to hide. At night, he dons a mask and becomes known as Six-Shooter, a vigilante whose targets are anyone who is the cause of the crisis. From pushers and dealers to members of the pharmaceutical companies that relish in pushing these painkillers on these people, Six-Shooter is aptly named as he pumps six bullets in each victim. He gets help from a cop who’s also affected by the crisis. However, as Bill gets closer to Alan and the cops want to nab Six-Shooter, who will come out on top?
A meshing of Death Wish, a little bit of Batman, and the real-life crisis of opioid addictions, director Mark Savage and writer Tom Parnell crafted an action film with a 70’s grindhouse exploitation feel combined with a viable story. Parnell came up with the idea after the passing of his son, who succumbed to the real-life crisis. Parnell also appears as the pivotal role of Doc, a good-natured physician who has created a new heart medication that our villain wants only as a means of profit as an opioid so he can continue to rake in the dough and not giving a care about the patients who really can use this medicine as intended.
The film definitely belongs to veterans Bill Oberst Jr. and Michael Pare. We get to see both sides of the spectrum with Oberst taking the reins. In a way, the title is not just a name for the opioids, but it can be said that Oberst’s character is also a titular “painkiller”. He kills the pain of those who have been affected by the crisis by donning a Purge-like mask and armed with a gun, with the media calling him “Six-Shooter” due to the fact he uses all six bullets in his victims. Oberst does a great job with the duality of both radio show host and the vigilante side, having a female detective as his silent partner. While he does take things too far at times like Batman would, the detective conveys a Commissioner Gordon-vibe to things, even telling Bill to pull back at times when necessary.
As for Pare, he’s the conniving Dr. Rhodes, a man who lives the lavish lifestyle by dealing and pushing opioids to helpless victims. He even uses Doc’s estranged wife as a pawn, making her believe that she is leaving Doc for him because she thinks he loves her. Ultimately, Rhodes only cares about one thing and one thing only and that’s the green! While things don’t get as physical between our two leads, they do play a battle of wits that ultimately becomes a cat and mouse game between who is right…the one who fights to stop the crisis or the one who just adds to the problem.
Painkiller is definitely a double entendre title with the opioid crisis in full mode as well as the vigilante who “kills” the pain by offing those responsible. Bill Oberst Jr. and Michael Pare are at the top of their game in this thriller.
WFG RATING: A-
Cinedigm presents a Delirium LLC production. Director: Mark Savage. Producers: Tom Parnell and Mark Savage. Writers: Tom Parnell and Mark Savage. Cinematography: David Richardson. Editing: Christopher Roth.
Cast: Michael Pare, Bill Oberst Jr., Tom Parnell, Kristina Beringer, Khamilah Gibson, Alexander Pennecke, Scot Scurlock.