SXSW 2021: ‘The Oxy Kingpins’ Review
In the recent history of the United States, the opioid crisis marks a distinctive scar. The addiction of countless Americans to opioids is a subject that continues to hit closer to home every day. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before a movie like The Oxy Kingpins came along.
Directed by Brendan Fitzgerald and Nick August-Perna, The Oxy Kingpins bites off a little more than it can chew. Aiming to encapsulate the entire opioid crisis in one film, it’s often informative but lacks a clear focus. That being said, the film starts off quite promisingly. We follow a lower-level drug dealer who details his time in Miami dealing oxycontin.
The Oxy Kingpins spares no detail in its opening stretch. Through the lens of this drug dealer, it’s made apparent just how easy it was to procure oxycontin through its earliest days of the market. Vividly, the dealers recall him and others loading up trucks of relatives and friends to the local pharmacies to get prescriptions, then flip them on the street. Accompanied by actual video inside these pharmacies, it’s a shocking sight that’d be completely unbelievable if it weren’t a documentary.
It’s in this opening stretch you can really feel the influence of executive producer Adam McKay. At a breakneck speed, the film stylishly establishes what was going on boots-on-the-ground to create a tangible portrait of the oxycontin trade. Unfortunately, The Oxy Kingpins then decides to look at the opioid crisis on a bigger scale: the litigation.
What follows is a series of talking-head interviews with lawyers who explain how the major corporations have allowed, perpetuated, and profited off the hooking of Americans onto the drug. To be sure, it’s important information, but it’s communicated in a dry manner. We never feel the impact of what’s going on, because The Oxy Kingpins is more concerned with getting into the personalities of various lawyers than getting across the human impact.
Therefore, it feels more like watching a CNN report than an actual documentary. The filmmakers do not give this crisis story the care it needs. The Oxy Kingpins has all the understanding of reading a brief article on the subject. In the latter moments, we do finally get some sort of human perspective of an addict. These interviews are painful to watch and it’s fascinating to hear someone who was directly affected by the gross negligence of the corporations who allowed oxycontin to become a widely-available street drug. But by then it’s too little too late.
The Oxy Kingpins has noble intentions. At times, it provides some vital information on a very important subject in this country. Where it fails is by not properly conveying the human impact of this crisis. There will be many pieces of great, informative art about the opioid crisis, this is just not one of them. – James Preston Poole
The Oxy Kingpins currently has no release date.