What a week for quality movies about clever and duplicitous tricksters gaming the system for great riches but at great peril!
In “I Care a Lot,” Rosamund Pike is a conservator who takes advantage of ailing senior citizens and has them committed to rehab facilities while she takes control of their assets.
In “Silk Road,” Nick Robinson is a techie rebel who facilitates the sale of drugs and other contraband on the dark web.
Now comes “Body Brokers,” with Jack Kilmer as a drug addict who gets caught up in extremely lucrative albeit monstrously exploitative rehab facility schemes in which tens of millions can be reaped by funneling recovering patients in and out of clinics, with the Obama administration footing the obscenely expensive bills for everything.
If the three of them ever intersected, it would be an explosion of stylish crime.
“Body Brokers” opens in Ohio, where the unfortunately named Utah (Jack Kilmer, son of Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley) and his girlfriend Opal (Alice Englert) have robbed a convenience store to fund their latest fix. They both look to be about one day away from an arrest or an overdose — and that’s when a mysterious stranger named Wood (Michael Kenneth Williams) seemingly shows up out of nowhere and offers them a ticket to redemption, in the form of a trip to a posh rehab facility in sunny southern California.
Opal thinks the offer sounds too good to be true and refuses, but Utah gets on a plane to the clinic, where he detoxes and gets sober with the help of a therapist named Dr. White (the great Melissa Leo), a recovering junkie named May (Jessica Rothe from “Happy Death Day”) who works at the clinic and takes a special interest in Utah; and the charismatic, beloved, rock-star owner of the facility (and many others), and you can call him Vin, just Vin.
The ubiquitous and always entertaining Frank Grillo, who has 11 movie and/or TV series on IMDB in 2020/2021, sinks his teeth into the role of Vin and serves as the narrator/explainer of the drug rehab money train — and although “Body Brokers” is fiction, the astonishing numbers are reflective of the real-world profits reaped by rehab owners after the Affordable Care Act of 2012 required insurance companies to pay for recovery treatment, no matter how costly.
As Utah pees into a cup and graphics pop onto the screen, Vin gushes, “The piss in this cup is worth more than an ounce of white truffle, Beluga caviar, platinum, gold or even rhino horn! Each cup … pays $2,000, and each client can test up to five times a week. Do the math!” Vin also notes his facilities can generate $4,000 per day per patient, with the cash flow continuing through the residential and outpatient phases of recovery — and the recidivism rate is north of 80%, meaning addiction becomes the gift that keeps on giving.
Wood takes Utah under his wing and hires him to essentially infiltrate the party scene in L.A. and recruit drug addicts in exchange for kickbacks for every patient registered. Meanwhile, Opal stumbles in from Ohio and starts screwing up like only Opal can, just as Utah is finding purpose in his (admittedly scummy) new line of work, and possible romance with the kindly and caring May.
Oh, and Peter Greene, who has specialized in playing memorably oily villains in classics such as “The Usual Suspects” and “Pulp Fiction,” shows up as a vile and corrupt doctor who performs assembly-line implants designed to curb opioid addictions — for wads of cash under the table, of course.
There’s a lot of zigging and zagging in “Body Brokers” at the expense of the main storyline, and some of the most compelling supporting characters disappear from the proceedings for extended stretches, but Jack Kilmer does an admirable job of playing the relatively guileless Utah, who comes across as decent guy who has lost his way and has stumbled so deep down the rabbit hole there might be no turning back. Writer-director John Swab is clearly influenced by films such as the “The Big Short” and his grasp sometimes exceeds his reach as he indulges in a few too many stylized touches and meandering subplots, but “Body Brokers” keeps us in its grips throughout.