Addiction dramas often zero in on a single patient or parents struggling with a drug-addled teen.
That’s understandable. One person’s addiction can impact an entire family, often with devastating results.
What if an entire community suffered all at once? That’s what’s happening in small towns across the country, the focus of writer/director Spencer T. Folmar’s new film.
“Shooting Heroin” drops us in on just such a town, a place where addiction claims life after life with little relief in sight. It’s an ambitious take, and sometimes the film’s overreach is clear. Still, the screenplay captures the essence of small town despair without serving up easy answers.
We all know there aren’t any.
Alan Powell (“The Song,” TV’s “Quantico”) stars as Adam, a barkeep in a Pennsylvania town walloped by heroin abuse. His own sister is an addict, and the beers he pours each night can’t assuage his customers’ fury.
Adam teams with a local mom (Sherilyn Fenn) who lost two sons to drugs as well as a man ready to roll up his sleeves and fight back. Yes, that’s “Welcome Back, Kotter” alum Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs delivering a nuanced turn as the audience surrogate.
It’s well past time to do something … but what?
Adam channels his inner Charles Bronson, certain he can weed out the dealers making so many lives miserable. Meanwhile, the local cop (Garry Pastore) tries to dampen Adam’s quest for vengeance while staying within the law.
FAST FACT: “Shooting Heroin” won Best Film, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (Garry Pastore) at the Hell’s Kitchen Film Festival in New York City in October.
Folmar (“Generational Sins”) tackles a complicated subject head on, but the approach leaves some sequences feeling too closely ripped from the headlines. Consider a scene where Adam easily scores addictive pain meds from a clueless physician.
Still, the production design effortlessly captures a small town in crisis, from the plainspoken clothes to the spare barrooms where locals drink their troubles away. We also step inside the neighborhood church, a source of salvation for many in trying times.
The film isn’t talking down to anyone.
The performers help sell moments that could feel didactic in lesser hands. Fenn pleads with local teens to stay away from drugs, speeches that are both heartfelt and hopelessly naive. She’s no drug guru. She’s just a mom in immense pain, and the actress nails that duality.
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) July 4, 2019
Pastore has the film’s thankless job, providing the face of how inefficient police can be in the drug wars. He makes Officer Jerry deeply flawed but focused on doing the right thing, even if that means something different to everyone in town.
Some of the plot beats feel jerry-rigged to keep the story moving, and even Adam’s ad hoc task force makes decisions that strain credulity. Still, the confluence of performances, themes and plot points makes “Shooting Heroin” simultaneously thought provoking and compelling.
Consider a conversation started after the credits roll, and in a mostly satisfying fashion. The indie film also gently shames Hollywood for not giving us similar stories. It’s well past time for a movie like “Shooting Heroin.”
HiT or Miss: “Shooting Heroin” tackles too much at times, but it effectively captures the heartbreak, and frustrations, facing small towns battling drug epidemics.