Of all the drug abuse dramas, “Body Brokers“Is the first I can remember about the” treatment industry “itself, that multi-billion dollar industry dedicated to helping hard drug users get off the habit, and the conclusion is surprising: addiction is a real money machine for doctors, therapists and Pharmaceutical companies a significant number of these thrive not on recovery, but on repeat business, the darkest of them relying on low-level recruiters, or ‘body brokers’, to supply the system with souls to save – or else just some easy cash .
A self-proclaimed ex-junkie who experienced the nasty side of cleaning firsthand, writer-director John Swab delivers an entertaining and dazzling insider’s view of the treatment racket. Channeling such films as ‘Thank You for Smoking’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, minus the dizzying style and poisonous satirical bite, Swab presents a homeless couple from Ohio, Utah (Jack Kilmer) and Opal (Alice Englert), who reluctantly agree to detox at the chic SoCal-based New West Recovery.
“So how much are they paying you?” asks a veteran Utah customer on his third day. Kilmer, a young actor with a stupid, childlike innocence, gives the man a blank look in return. Utah had no idea his fellow patients would receive bribes; he’s there because he legitimately wants to quit.
As explained by Vin (Frank Grillo), the film’s narrator and snake oil practitioner, an institution like New West can charge about $ 300,000 per patient for a 90-day stay thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Multiply that by 60 beds, booked year-round, and New West’s annual haul is approaching $ 72 million. Every cent of that could be justified if the treatment worked. But if you can believe Vin, it was designed not to. “The success rate in drug addiction is 10%,” he says. And for all those failures, there’s a financial incentive for his affable lead recruiter, Wood (Michael Kenneth Williams), to send them right back if they fall off the wagon.
When we meet Utah and Opal, they lean on corner store robberies and other humiliating ways to score their next fix of crack or heroin, the couple’s poison of choice. Of the two, Utah is more motivated to get clean, so he leaves Opal in Ohio and takes Wood’s invitation to New West – which feels as glamorous as the movie’s opening infomercial suggests. May, the resident intake assistant, is played by ‘Valley Girl’ star Jessica Rothe, and his therapist is none other than Oscar winner Melissa Leo, who tackles concerns so deeply that addicts in the audience may want to enroll themselves.
Before Utah is up his 90 days, however, he’s surprised to see Opal appear, and it takes him a while to find out that Wood, his unofficial ‘sponsor’, brought her in through a variation on the scam that he’s now our naive (and now heroin-free) hero to help out: Every time Wood New West sends a new addict, he gets a commission, and the “customer” gets some of that – the motivation to use, in exchange for another “paid vacation” “. “Now he wants Utah to help him convince junkies to get high and go back.
That’s just one of the scams Vin runs, all inspired by real tricks that opportunists use to play a system put in place to save lives. “Body Brokers” also shows Utah and Wood rounding up addicts to get naltrexone implants – an expensive Frankenstein-like procedure designed to block opiate receptors that a real San Diego doctor was hired for. These surgeries cost about $ 60,000 a doll, Vin explains, and a savvy surgeon (like Peter Greene’s Skeletal Doctor) can do 20 a day. Meanwhile, the patients can turn around and have the implants removed immediately for a few dollars.
And then there are the call centers, the cells full of hotline operators (represented here by an agitated Thomas Dekker) who respond to “Struggling?” commercials that are broadcast on TV late at night. They’re also body brokers, ordering concerned family members to send their loved ones to clinics like New West – against a commission, of course.
Swab has done its homework, and the audience will no doubt leave with a freshly worn-out perspective on who will benefit the most from all these recovery tactics. But the criminal elements here are simultaneously more compelling and acutely cliché than those of the routine addiction story that this movie seems so determined not to get. By the time things turn deadly and Grillo’s gray leader begins to openly become villain, the film has drifted from its “ fact-based ” base to more conventional genre territory. Still, Swab has exposed a scary paradox: On the one hand, society will spare no effort to save addicts, while the system sees junkies as expendable, making them the perfect patsy for such plans.
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