Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Brent Hodge
Cast: Martin Shkreli, Wu-Tangh Clan’s Ghostface Killah, Christie Smythe, Ben Brafman
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/11/21
Opens: October 5, 2021
The U.S. and New Zealand are the world’s only countries that allow prescription drugs to be advertised on TV, so it’s no wonder that the viewing public clamors for scripts from their doctors, resulting in Big Pharma’s push to sell the drugs for what the market can bear. Occasionally the government (yes the government that allows the TV marketing) successfully sues, as shown by the recent awards won against the makers of opiates. We think of pharmaceutical companies as faceless connivers but at least in one case, a single individual has rocked the industry by gouging the price of a lifesaving drug he controls, then daring his critics to say he regrets he did not raise the price even higher.
Martin Shkreli, now in a low security Club Fed facility, has been labeled the most hated guy in America (probably our former president breathes a sign of relief that he did not “win” the label). As he appears on the screen, he comes across as a brat, but a brat who has caused enormous harm to segments of the American public.
This could have been done as a typical doc, talking heads, people acting normal discussing climate control, processed foods, the evils of tobacco, liquor, coke. And perhaps a straight narrative giving the facts about a most unusual fellow would be more informative, albeit less entertaining. Instead, this is the kind of production that can be appreciated by young hipsters, filled with quick shots of comic book heroes and villains including Batman’s nemesis Penguin.
But Martin Shkreli is the kind of unusual fellow that evokes the techniques used by director Brent Hodge, himself a hip-looking guy, big beard, though unassuming as when he goes to the second floor of a building housing the executive offices of Retrophin, currently doing research on Alzheimer’s, founded by Shkreli. Hodge leaves empty-handed. As for Shkreli, he is busted not for price gouging on drugs, but for a Ponzi scheme involving his activities as head of a hedge fund.
Martin Shkreli has done a lot at a early age, shown in this doc largely when he is in his early thirties appearing on his own live stream and inviting people to call him. He is considered by some to the the most hated man in America for raising the price of Daraprim, under his control, from its initial $13 or so per pill to $700 each. This puts it beyond the reach of many people who are suffering from HIV and who need this medication to survive, but what’s even more strange than Shkreli’s view, “What ya gonna do about it?” is that our country has no laws regulating the prices of drugs. We have laws on rent control, taxicab fares, but Big Pharma must have enormous power to lobby Congress to turn its back on thoughts of price controls.
Interviews including some with a journalist intent on exposing him but who states that she fell in love with him, visited him in jail, and intends to match up with Shkreli when he is released from a federal prison. Shkreli is the kind of person who is entertaining at first, but like a former president has outlived his usefulness on the screen. I would have preferred a straightforward doc, but then I suppose I’m a square, though one who has no problem recommending this to others who might appreciate it more. As though director Hodge wonders whether his videos are entertaining enough on their own, he has encouraged soundtrack music to go beyond normal boundaries, intrusive as all get-out.
87 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – C (intrusive music)
Overall – B-