Some problems can’t be solved with a prescription. Attempting to do for the opioid epidemic what “Traffic” did for the war on drugs, Nicholas Jarecki’s “Crisis” sets up three separate storylines — a grieving mama with a grudge (Evangeline Lilly), an undercover DEA operative with an imminent bust (Armie Hammer) and a compromised research professor with a conscience (Gary Oldman) — and proceeds to braid them together for maximum melodrama.
“Crisis” opens with an action scene, as a camouflaged drug runner is ambushed by police in a helicopter and on snowmobiles while trying to smuggle fentanyl across an unpatrolled stretch of the Canadian border. Jarecki keeps the momentum going — sometimes simply by using dynamic camera moves to energize otherwise static situations — throughout the first act as he introduces his three lead characters.
When Tyrone’s assistants discover that a new wonder drug, Klaralon, is three times more addictive than other painkillers on mice (and fatal in excess), he’s torn by what to do with the findings. The movie sends a smarmy Big Pharma exec (Luke Evans) to make the conflict of interest even more generous (he offers Tyrone’s department a $780,000 grant in exchange for enhanced nondisclosure terms). Such shady practices do happen, of course, but Jarecki tends to oversimplify, putting ultimatums in characters’ mouths that would be more menacing if implied.