Cinema Review: The Oxy Kingpins [SXSW 2021] | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, July 6th, 2022  

The Oxy Kingpins

Studio: TYT Productions
Directed by Brendan Fitzgerald

Mar 22, 2021 Web Exclusive
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The Oxy Kingpins is an analytical and nuanced look at the opioid epidemic in the United States in the past two decades. Executive produced by Adam McKay, the documentary begins with an interview with a former drug dealer, explaining how easy it was to sell the opioid OxyContin upon its initial release. From there, the film pivots to interviews with lawyers, politicians, and more people in the OxyContin and opioid supply chain. These interviews, as well as loads of archival and legal footage, provide a complex look at how the opioid epidemic was fueled by the greed of the big corporate distribution companies.

The documentary shows that while much of the blame (and criminal justice) caused by the ongoing opioid epidemic has been pinned on dealers, pharmacists, and doctors, the executives at these corporations have been able to get off scot-free. By approaching the unbelievably high toll and destruction caused by the opioid epidemic – with the numbers going up every day, The Oxy Kingpins is able to provide a complete look at the opioid epidemic in a variety of ways. While informative, the documentary creates a sense of frustration because of how little accountability the main corporations involved have taken.

An impressive part of The Oxy Kingpins is the great lengths director Brendan FitzGerald takes to give viewers a well-rounded perspective. This is mainly due to the sheer amount of people interviewed in the film, but it is also the product of a well-structured documentary that moves from topic to topic without losing the viewer’s interest. The first half of the documentary provides the necessary backstory about the epidemic, primarily using testimonials from a few dealers and suppliers. The second half takes a deep dive into three corporations involved in distributing insane amounts of these drugs is much more intense and emotional. By dividing the film into these two different parts, The Oxy Kingpins keeps viewers tuned in to see just how bad the extent of the epidemic truly was, and still is.

By exploring so much in a quick 80 minutes, it’s easy to get lost in the content. As the film transitions from discussing the role of the streets to the role of the corporations, it can sometimes feel confusing and repetitive as interviewees from both sides collide in rapid succession. The documentary would be more effective as two 40-minute parts as while all the content presented is interesting and thought-provoking, there’s so much to take in in a single sitting.

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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