Body Brokers

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Body Brokers Movie Poster Image
Drama busts drug rehab scam; sex, language, smoking, more.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 111 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No overtly positive messages, but definitely a takeaway that doing drugs can lead to a terrible outcome.

Positive Role Models

Two treatment center employees have overcome their own substance dependencies and now work to help others. Lead character works hard to get clean and stay sober. 

Violence

Armed robbery. Guns are flashed frequently. Intense beating. Murder. 

Sex

A few brief, non-explicit sex scenes. A character is a sex worker, is shown in the act. Passionate kissing. Close-up of backside of a woman who's wearing a thong bathing suit.

Language

Extremely strong language throughout: "ass," "a--hole," "bitch," "d--k," "douche bags," "goddamned," "p---y," "s--t," and "f--k." Other insulting, ableist language includes "retard mongoloid."

Consumerism

Luxury cars, fancy houses.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters shoot up, snort cocaine, heat up crack. Smoking throughout. Drinking at a party.                                                        

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Body Brokers is a fact-based condemnation of the drug treatment center industry. It's somewhat similar to The Big Short in that it speaks directly to viewers with infuriating facts about how the system became corrupt to take advantage of insurance company mandates to cover rehab services. As most of the characters have drug dependencies (some are in recovery), people are shown getting high in detail: preparing heroin, crack, and/or cocaine and then shooting up or snorting the drugs. Most also smoke. There are several brief, non-graphic sex scenes, including one that involves a character doing sex work. Language is extremely strong and frequent, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," and more.

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What's the story?

In BODY BROKERS, Utah (Jack Kilmer) and Opal (Alice Englert) are unhoused and dependent on drugs in rural Ohio, doing whatever they have to in order to get the substances their bodies crave. They meet Wood (Michael Kenneth Williams), a kind stranger passing through town who offers them a glamorous way to get cleaned up: a flight to California and a stay at a 30-day addiction treatment center, free of charge. As Utah works hard to achieve sobriety, he starts to become aware that the rehab facilities -- the kind that run commercials all day long -- are a revolving door, treating the same patients over and over.

Is it any good?

John Swab's snappy insurance fraud drama claims that one of the few things that's more addictive than drugs is capitalism. With shades of The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short, this fictional parable is intermittently interrupted by snarky voice-over. Stacking statistics that are intended to shock, it spotlights a scam that's arisen in recent years to take advantage of a well-intentioned mandate in the Affordable Care Act. 

Using a storytelling style similar to movies about the mob, Body Brokers introduces us to substance-dependent lovebirds Utah and Opal in Cleveland. Their souls are connected through their pursuit of the next hit. When a seemingly caring stranger offers them a way out, Utah leaps at the opportunity -- not because of any moral shortcuts he's taken through life, but because he's tired of the difficult grind. Opal stays behind, sure that Utah is making a mistake by choosing rehab over a life of holdups and sex work to pay for drugs. Using his own personal story as a guiding device, writer-director Swab lulls viewers into a hopeful example of someone overcoming the odds ... and then sporadically punches us in the face with the realities of the film's world. Body Brokers castigates the rehab facility industry while maintaining a nonjudgmental attitude about substance abuse. The result is that the film is enlightening rather than preachy, and teen viewers are likely to come to the conclusion that starting drugs could easily lead to a sad end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of substance dependency, in real life and as depicted in the media. The writer-director of Body Brokers wrote the story based on his experiences as a self-proclaimed "street junkie." Does that lend the film credibility?

  • How does the film turn mundane information into something intriguing? Teens: Are there any school subjects you can think of in which more engaging storytelling might help you learn the material?

  • Do you think the film's portrayal of drug use and smoking is glamorized? Are there realistic consequences? Why does that matter?

  • Do you think what the "body brokers" do is illegal or immoral? Where's the line? If a job is legal and pays you big money, why should you be concerned about the immorality of your responsibilities?

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