Skip Netflix’s brash, brainless Painkiller

Dopesick for Dummies
Pictured: Matthew Broderick as Richard Sackler in Painkiller
// Watch Dopesick for a dose of righteous indignation
Adam Smith
Sep 05, 2023
Icon Time To Read2 min read
Published on September 04, 2023

The opioid crisis in America might seem a world away, but it’s a story worth learning about. The well-documented greed and recklessness of Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family has destroyed families, lives and entire cities. It’s a tale worth telling.

Unfortunately, Netflix’s attempt, Painkiller, feels like a race to the lowest common denominator. It’s a serious subject run through a grotesque Michael Bay filter, and it diminishes people whose stories it claims to tell. The series is directed by Peter Berg, who previously helmed Battleship, and brings all the subtlety and nuance to Painkiller that he did to that project.

Fortunately, the story has already been told, much more ably. Disney PlusDopesick didn’t seem to garner much attention in Australia when it debuted last year, but it’s well worth your time. It addresses the opioid crisis with humanity and empathy, while pulling no punches in depicting the villains of the story. There’s a reason it won a Peabody Award.

Or, for that matter, turn to the primary source for Painkiller, the excellent documentary Crime of the Century, also streaming on Disney Plus. Let the people affected by the crisis tell their own stories rather than be turned into brash caricatures.

The opioid crisis is an ongoing American tragedy, and it deserves a serious, sober treatment, not the Dopesick for Dummies approach Netflix has taken.

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You're going to love The Watchlist**By clicking this link, you are contractually obliged to love The Watchlist. You don't have to tell everybody about The Watchlist, but that would help prove that you love it in the court of law. if it came to that.

What to expect from The Watchlist

The growing number of streaming video-on-demand services has unlocked a world of entertainment for everyday Australians. But what should be a dream come true has slowly turned into a living nightmare; an avalanche of content delivered direct to your screen with nobody sorting the rare gems from the rivers of cinematic sludge.

It's like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Nazi opens the coveted ark. The thing we so desperately wanted in Australia, after decades of delayed movie and TV releases, has melted our face off and turned us into a puddle of quivering goop.

What The Watchlist offers is a return to simpler times. Like getting a recommendation from the cool Video Ezy clerk. We keep our recommendations simple and focused, typically in line with a common theme (actor, director, genre etc.,) or recent release. 

There are plenty of services and newsletters like The Watchlist around the world, but our recommendations are specific to an Australian audience. So if we recommend something, you can be sure we'll tell you where its streaming too. 

Adam Smith
Written by
Adam Smith has been a journalist for the past 18 years, writing on subjects as varied as music, entertainment, finance and technology. Since moving to Australia from Kentucky (before you ask, yes, he knows the secret recipe) by way of New Zealand, Adam has led an editorial team at Finder, launched editorial operations at and hosted podcasts about personal finance, streaming, emo music, the crypto craze and the award-nominated We Review Stuff podcast. These days, Adam spends most of his time behind the scenes managing the team of reviewers on but he will occasionally pop in to spin wild conspiracy theories about Chris Messina being a glitch in the simulation in The Watchlist newsletter.

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