Cards on the table time… there’s a lot about Painkiller that I have difficulty in relating to. Not that I can’t believe it, I’ve heard enough of the US medical system to know it’s, well, quite different to every other Western country. There are some situations which could happen over here in the UK, but there are way more that wouldn’t.
Before I start on all that I’d better give a quick précis…
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Painkiller is about a father who has lost his daughter to opioid addiction. This is down to painkillers being too easily available or over prescribed, and so he decides to take a direct approach to the problem.
And this is an actual problem in the USA. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) states that, in 2015, there were 20,101 deaths due to prescription medicine overdoses, as opposed to 12,990 for heroin; in short, legal, prescribed drugs are killing nearly twice as many people as illegal drugs.
What’s It All About?
Painkiller sees bereaved father Bill Johnson (Bill Oberst Jr) coming to terms with the loss of his daughter. He starts off as one of those one man radio show things which, apparently, are a thing in the USA.
Do people actually just start broadcasting when they feel the need to vent, or do they keep to a schedule? More intriguingly, do people just listen to dead air until their chap starts talking and then they phone in?
Anyway, Bill spends most of his time blaming the high death rate on the drug companies for pushing sales, and doctors for overprescribing to get bonuses.
To start making amends, he takes it upon himself to get a mask and a big gun and start shooting people along the supply chain, both legal and illegal.
I’m not going to pick on the shooting thing.
It’s not a UK thing, but I know it happens in the USA. The big difference between here and there is the point of contact for the prescription. Apparently, in the USA, drug companies will advertise to the general public, who will then go to their doctor, say they have the symptoms and need this drug, hand over their money, and get a script.
Over here it’s totally different. I don’t know what the latest drug is for any particular condition and, if I have a problem, I go to my GP and tell him what’s wrong with me. He’ll order some tests and then prescribe what he thinks you need. Also, a prescription usually just gives the generic name; it’ll say something like “Tramadol 50mg, prn dol.urg Max 2qds” and won’t mention a brand name like Marol, Zydol, or Brimisol, so the dispenser will give whatever they’ve got the most of.
It means it’s pointless for the drug company to pump bazillions of pounds into promoting their stuff.
Did It Hurt?
So the main thrust of the film is about the protagonist justifying going around shooting people who are, after all, mainly not doing anything illegal — which I can understand without actually relating to. It did start to get a bit relentless though. I understand they had a message to get across but, after a while I did feel like it was being hammered into me with something very blunt and heavy.
Unfortunately, though the worst thing for me was the lead actor, Bill Oberst Jr.
Don’t get me wrong; he was good as the character; suitably intense and driven, and carried the part, and most people wouldn’t have a problem with him. My problem is that he just reminded me of Barry Chuckle. That’s something that won’t cross the Atlantic!
Movie Grade: B-
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!
Join the conversation
My name is Mary Jane and I am working to promote State (Remix), a dark suspense film about a family, a murder, and a political conspiracy. It was written, directed, edited, and produced by first-time filmmaker Alain Nouvel. Movie Reviews 101 just referred to it as “a powerful drama highlighting the unseen pain of returning from war.” We were also recently featured by Hollywood.com.
I am writing to you because we want to partner with different organizations to help promote the film and reach new audiences. We were especially excited by your engaging film reviews.
Here is a synopsis of the film:
“An old man, alone and abandoned by his only living relative, haunted by his role in altering the course of American history, prepares to commit suicide. His grandson, a traumatized veteran on the edge, caught between memory and reality, is trying to reach his estranged girlfriend who doesn’t know that he’s back – or gone awol. In one last, desperate attempt he seeks her out, but at this point everything is a trigger.”
We are looking to set something up and maybe have the film reviewed. We can provide a screener link and press packet if you would like. Our instagram is @stateremix and our email is [email protected]. If you are interested in working with us, please let me know.
Rob Williams Administrator
Thanks for the comment,Mary Jane. We’d love try and sort something out between us and I’ll be emailing in a few minutes.
First of all I have not seen this movie, but I wanted to tell you about how it really is in America when it comes to prescription drugs. You see I have been diagnosed with daily Migraines among about 10 other health problems 3 deal with daily pain, now years and years ago, I could get the opioids and go about my day, no problems, now, even after many, many medical tests (Some of the tests were painful in themselves) it is more then proven yes I do have these debilitating health problems, BUT,… because of politicians getting into my health care (none are doctors and none know my health problems so how can they tell doctors what to and not to prescribe me) so they will not give me any, as they are afraid they will get in trouble for prescribing them to me, and when I use to get them, I would get blood tests, show my bottle and they would check to make sure I only received what they wanted to give me and prove I was not taking to much, just enough to work, but now since they will not give me anything, they keep trying medications that cost to much money (I was just prescribe on that was $400 a month, another was $703 a month and the one before that was $200 a month and that is after fighting with the insurance to cover some of it. So I can not afford this medication, I can not get the things that helped before, and because of the pain (and other things) I can not work anymore, I loved working (I know that sounds strange but I was always the boss and I like that) so I do not know how people get these drugs they overdose on, I have read that the people that are overdosing is those who are taking medication that was not prescribed for them, not under a doctors control, and I can see that, I personally have thought that myself, trying to find these drugs on the street that would help me function, but I do not like that idea, I want to get better or at least have a life, and not take something that is not for me that could case harm, but I can see how some people do that, and that is why we need doctors to be doctors and monitor their patience’s and not have politicians tell them what to do, if that went back to happening, I think things would change, Thank for for letting me vent about a problem that faces the world.
Thank you for writing. First let me say how touched I was by your plight; my first wife suffered from migraine and I know how debilitating it can be. I also understand how you were forced to give up working due to your conditions; I am, fortunately, retired but I’ve had to give up the day a week I spent volunteering in a charity shop due to the constant pain I’m in due to arthritis.
I don’t want to criticise the USA as all my friends and colleagues are based Stateside but I am constantly bewilderedly the medieval, third world approach to health care. The USA is undoubtedly one of the most advanced nations in the world in many respects but any country that allows tens of thousands of its citizens to die because they can’t afford to pay insurance premiums must ask itself some serious questions.
I, personally, am in receipt of medication that costs the NHS over £2,500 (≈$3,500) every month and that’s the cost price to them buying in bulk. At the point of use the cost to the patient is nothing, zero, zip. That doesn’t mean it is free though. Throughout my working life I’ve paid a contribution out of my salary which goes to the funding and upkeep of the health service; I’ve paid in for over forty years and now I’m getting my money back. Along with tonsillectomy, gall bladder removal, access to a GP and A&E, referrals to consultants, X-Rays, MRI and CT scans among much, much more over the years. For some reason, me paying a contribution to a world class national health service is viewed as seen as rampant communism whereas you paying to buy the CEO of a pharmaceutical a third yacht while having to decide whether to eat, pay rent, or go to hospital is seen as part of the American dream.
That Painkiller was about opioid abuse is interesting to me as the majority of illegal drug use is based around Heroin which was developed by Bayer towards the end of the nineteenth century. Bizarrely, around the same time, they were developing another pain medication called Aspirin. Shortly after release one of the two was taken off the market due to health concerns. Yes, you guessed it… it was Aspirin that was withdrawn!
Anyway, I’m glad we could provide a place for you to vent… feel free to chip in any time!