Body Brokers Synopsis: 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 drug treatment. He soon learns though that drug treatment is but a cover for a predatory business, where addicts enlist other addicts to profit off their circular habits.
Writer and director John Swab delves into society’s rampant drug abuse with his latest Body Brokers. Acting as a condemnation of the US’s flawed rehabilitation structures and a journey of recovery for a wayward soul, Swab bites off a sprawling narrative with his Big Short meets Requiem for a Dream leaning. I give Swab ample credit for his well-intended critiques, but they’re ultimately stuck in a scattershot narrative that rarely reaches its dramatic potential.
In his effort to combine two contrasting perspectives (the endless profits for the exploitative brokers versus the addict’s hopeless cycle of self-destruction), Swab leaves both relatively undefined in the process. He conveys a fittingly cynical tone within Frank Grillo’s narration as a ringleader broker, but his writing isn’t sharp enough to truly condemn his subject matter.
Aside from a few alarming statistics, Swab presents a flatly loud presentation that says little outside of obvious denouncements (his few attempts at satire are a swing and a miss comedically). The played-out fourth-wall-breaking nods only highlight the wearisome simplicity, as Body Brokers clings to a stylistic voice that lacks any real perspective.
On a character-driven front, Body Brokers reeks of after-school special melodrama. Star Jack Kilmer delivers a capable performance as the newly-initiated Utah, although the actor has little to do with the thinly-conceived role. Utah acts more like an amalgam cipher of the drug addict experience rather than a specific character, lacking enough agency to have a presence in his own narrative.
The other addict characters merely serve as outstretched personas devoid of any empathetic traits, while Michael Kenneth Williams’ role as a broker mentor goes nowhere despite the star’s personable talents. I wish Swab’s incorporated a few more authentic frames to match his dour perspective. A fittingly bitting finale helps punctuate the director’s intent, but it comes too little too late to register a lingering impact.
Body Brokers boasts a few strong frames as an eye-opening examination of a problematic societal structure. It’s a shame those sobering blimps only equate to parts in a half-baked narrative, with Swab’s promising intent outstretching his film’s capabilities.
Vertical Entertainment will release BODY BROKERS in Theaters and on Digital and On Demand on February 19, 2021.
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