Crisis, the latest film from writer-director Nicholas Jarecki, yearns to be a socially conscious thriller laced with moral cynicism and taut suspense in the vein of Silkwood and The China Syndrome. But it has more in common with dubious Best Picture winner Crash, given its all-star cast and generically predictable intersecting stories.

The film (in theaters Friday, on VOD March 5) follows three stories rooted in the opioid crisis. There's Jake Kelly (a sullen, imposing Armie Hammer), an undercover DEA agent who takes everything extremely personally thanks to his sister's own addiction, focused on bringing down a fentanyl-smuggling operation based in Canada. Running in parallel to his story, university professor and scientist Dr. Tyrone Brower (Gary Oldman) makes a startling discovery about the Big Pharma company funding his research. Caught between them is Claire Reimann (Evangeline Lilly), a recovering oxycodone addict embroiled in uncovering her son's role in a narcotics scheme.

Crisis makes an effort to build tension through its crisscrossing story lines. Dr. Brower vacillates between his ethical obligation to do what's right and professional pressure to remain silent, while both Jake and Claire home in on the same target, an opioid kingpin. But it never actually feels dangerous, its moments of violence more de rigueur than shocking.

Armie Hammer in Crisis
Armie Hammer in 'Crisis'
| Credit: Philippe Bosse

Despite a stacked cast, which also includes Greg Kinnear, Luke Evans, Michelle Rodriguez, Lily-Rose Depp, and Indira Varma, the performances are wooden, weighed down by a stiff Hammer and a sleepwalking Oldman, the latter of whom seems to be biding his time in between flashier awards bait.

The women suffer most grievously, with Lilly trapped in a female version of a Liam Neeson role with less character development. She makes a noble effort to imbue her grieving vigilante mother with more humanity and a deeper emotional well than much of the rest of the cast, but it's frustrating to watch her play a woman defined only by her relationship to her son. Other female characters here have a similar lack of depth, their roles reduced to cartoonish villains or nearly wordless stand-by-your-man" tropes.

Oldman has perhaps the most to work with, as his character wrestles with protecting his job and his research lab over the potential cost to human lives his findings might imply. But audiences can easily guess what choice he'll make. His story line comes with a frustrating attempt to drum up empathy for his situation via making him a victim of "cancel culture," bringing an old sexual harassment claim into the weapons Big Pharma uses against him. Considering that Oldman has been dogged by domestic abuse allegations from the 1990s (which he has denied), it leaves a bad taste in the mouth to watch him enact this parable of a misunderstood man unjustly accused.

Jarecki tries to do too much with too little, and the film's attempt at exposing the sobering cost of the opioid crisis while also offering a satisfying thriller falls short of the mark. Crisis adds nothing new or enthralling to a catalog of better films on the issue (see: Traffic, Sicario, etc.). Its biggest crisis is that it's a thriller with no thrills. Grade: C+

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