The rampant American commodification of pretty much anything isn’t a new trend – films like The Big Short prove that – and Body Brokers is the next in line to show how endemic this problem is. Writer-director John Swab explores the companies using insurance loopholes to make millions off drug addicts’ rehabilitation services, telling a story that’s deeply character-driven, surprisingly bouncy, and genuinely emotionally impactful.
Body Brokers follows Utah (played excellently by Lords of Chaos up-and-comer Jack Kilmer), a crack and heroin addict brought to New West Recovery by Wood (Michael Kenneth Williams), a former addict himself, whose role in the scheme is to rope addicts into an endless loop of rehab, profit, release, and repeat. We track Utah’s progress as he gets clean, leaves the centre and begins working alongside Wood, as the moral ramifications of his job – effectively using addiction to make money – weighs on him, and his struggles with narcotics rear their abhorrent head once again.
Utah’s journey is the crux of the film, and it’s anchored by really strong lead performances and a script that gives plenty of time to fleshing out its characters, and viscerally representing not only the danger of drugs, but the sinister nature of modern economics. The film certainly feels influenced by Scorsese, from the cynical Frank Grillo voice-over to a grave digging scene that pays direct homage to Goodfellas, and while the plot isn’t quite as taut as Scorsese’s usual output, its discussion of late-stage capitalism and the lingering morality around the treatment of addiction is something rarely explored, and handled with precision and care.
And that’s what makes Body Brokers the biggest surprise of the year so far: it’s a film that arrives with relatively little buzz, but confidently addresses really pressing social and economic issues through fascinating characters, a solid script and great performances. Its final moments will stick in the mind for some time, and its message is crucially important: Body Brokers is absolutely worth a watch.
Signature Entertainment presents Body Brokers on Digital Platforms 8th March.