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This story contains spoilers for Pain Hustlers.
Pain Hustlers, the latest Netflix project to dramatize the criminal world of pharmaceuticals, recruited Chris Evans and Emily Blunt for a lighter take on the genre. Filmmaker David Yates (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) hoped to provide a more comedic story—while still arriving at the same conclusion. (Read: Big Pharma is bad.) So, he chose to tackle a highly dramatized version of Evan Hughes's nonfiction book, Pain Hustlers: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Startup. It's the story of a billionaire startup company that features all the sinister aims of the corrupt drug business, as well as its lenient sentencing.
The film follows Liza Drake (Blunt) a fictional character who is a single mom and a strip-club dancer—at least, until she's enticed by the world of pharmaceutical sales. She meets Pete Brenner (Evans) at the club, and he offers her $100,000 a year to push a new Fentanyl-based spray called Lonafen. Taking the job at Zanna, the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug, she rises through the ranks. We're also introduced to her daughter, Phoebe (Chloe Coleman), who suffers from epilepsy due to a brain tumor, and Liza's mother, Jackie (Catherine O'Hara).
Eventually, Zanna's tactics—including bribes and misrepresentation of Lonafen's addictive nature—puts the pharmaceutical company on the federal government's radar. After Liza realizes that overdoses are much more common than she originally believed, she turns herself in and confesses to the company's illegal activity. Through Liza and her family's work, the feds are able to arrest everyone involved, including billionaire investor Jack Neel (Andy Garcia). They catch Neel due a fictionalized account of the billionaire sleeping with Liza Drake's mother. (Plus, some incriminating emails.)
Though everyone is sentenced to meager jail time and the company goes bankrupt, Liza does get somewhat of a happy ending. After serving just 15 months, she's released from prison. Her new gig? Selling her mother's new skincare products. But wait, you might be thinking. How did Phoebe get her brain surgery if Liza left the company? Pain Hustlers never explains how, exactly, but she seems fine by the end! In the credits, Yates also provides viewers with a glimpse into the real people that inspired the events of the film. He also shows a bit of Chris Evans's real-life rap parody, which was surprisingly a true tactic of the pharmaceutical company. At the end of the day, maybe the lesson is to never trust anything presented as a parody hip-hop track.
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