Utah (Jack Kilmer) and Opal (Alice Englert) are junkies living on the streets of rural Ohio until a seemingly chance encounter with the enigmatic Wood (Michael Kenneth Williams) brings them to Los Angeles for treatment. While Utah finds sobriety with the help of the treatment center shrink (Melissa Leo), he soon learns that rehab is not about helping people—it’s merely a cover scheme for a multibillion-dollar fraud operation, enlisting addicts to recruit other addicts. Seduced by the money, but troubled by the hypocrisy, Utah must decide between what will make him rich, and what will save Opal.
John Swab’s Body Brokers starts off like any drug-addiction crime movie. A heavy user realizes that he is going to die if he keeps using as frequently as he does, and then coincidentally, a person with a big heart tries to help them out by getting them the treatment they so desperately need. From there, the movie usually becomes an emotional journey of one man’s story of overcoming drugs and learning to live a better and healthier life.
For the first act of Body Brokers, that’s exactly the type of movie it is, and I was ready to roll my eyes at an unoriginal and boring story that’s been told time and time again. But as soon as the second act kicks into gear and the movie reveals what it’s really about, it pulls a complete 180 and becomes a highly entertaining and truly investing crime thriller even if it never quite reaches the emotional and exhilarating highs it attempts to reach.
Although the film does admittedly follow some of the tried-and-true formulas of typical drug/crime thrillers, it does have an impressive trick or two up its sleeve along the way. It’s at its best when it focuses on the character of Utah and how he is handling the wild and dangerous situation that he is in. The character development here is remarkable.
What’s even more remarkable are the performances. Jack Kilmer feels tailor-made for this role that certainly wasn’t easy. And although she doesn’t get too meaty of a role, the always great and always Oscar-worthy Jessica Rothe steals every scene she is in and continues to prove her excellence and vast understanding of how to act.
Something that majorly disappointed me here was that we didn’t really get to learn a whole lot about the mysterious fraud operation that the entire film revolves around. By the time the film came to a close, I felt like I didn’t really get a good sense of how they operated. How exactly do they find these addicts and recruit them? This was a question that was on my mind the entire time but unfortunately, it never got answered. Thankfully though, Body Brokers boasts an energetic cast with a strong sense of tension lurking throughout. That, in addition to the impressive character development, makes this a crime thriller worth checking out.
Overall Grade: B
MPAA Rating: R for strong drug content, pervasive language, and some sexual content
Directed by: John Swab
Distributed by: Vertical Entertainment
Release Date: February 19, 2021
Running Time: 111 minutes