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
bullet2 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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Adam Smith
Written by
Adam Smith
Adam Smith has been a journalist for the past 16 years, writing on subjects as varied as music, entertainment, finance and technology.

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