Shooting Heroin is a gritty faith-centered take on the opioid epidemic that flirts — in both title and technique — with becoming a modern-day drug-dealer massacre a la Death Wish. That does not happen.
Adam (Alan Powell) returns home to his small town and finds his sister is addicted to smack. After she overdoses, he’s very distraught and leads an uprising against the drug dealers in their town, who include Logan (Brian O’Halloran from Clerks!). Alan, who looks like an even harder-jawed Henry Cavill, flirts with the temptation to murder dealers. His grief asks for easy solutions. He becomes deputized by the local sheriff (Garry Pastore), along with two other citizens who have concerns: Hazel (Sherilyn Fenn) and Edward (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs). Hazel lost her two sons to overdoses and wants a peaceful solution while Edward fans the flames of Adam’s violent desires. Fenn and Hilton-Jacobs are both recognizable performers from television, particularly cult shows from decades ago. They’re both quite good in their roles.
Writer-director Spencer T. Folmar has made a name for himself by making Christian films with a harder edge. Not as hard as, say, Assassin 33 A.D., the best Christian film ever made. Shooting Heroin features death, violence and close-ups on needles injecting chemicals into arms. Alan frequently comes close to murdering people. Poverty is depicted in a realistic light. Despite the gritty patina, it still ends in soft rock and a foregone forgiveness-based conclusion. Insofar as this is morally wrong, well, it’s morally easy.
Obviously the solution to the opioid epidemic is not mass murder. If the movie had featured that, this review would’ve been an easy one to write: “Wow, what a wild ride. Christspoitatoin at its finest. New Testament spirituality and Old Testament justice. 1,000 words.” As it is, Shooting Heroin asks audiences to gin themselves up with dread (and excitement) at Adam’s potential violence and then feel relief when he forgives his target and moves forward with his life — a simple, basic emotional ask that does not feel especially earned by the movie’s tone. Adam is a violent, angry man whose redemption feels far too simple for his general awfulness. Grief can make us monsters, but the revelation that reclaims his soul lands like a lead weight.
Folmar’s films aims to explore real faith in the face of real pain — with none of that Lifetime movie style — to get the audience interested without preaching to them like other Christian films. Shooting Heroin is an evocative and exploitative title. Leaning into the exploitation angle would be a cinematically valid approach to the themes of faith and forgiveness it aims to show. Most of the movie tilts towards it.
Instead, the conclusion of the story feels like that of a far cheerier version of the story. Adam’s conflicts are so major, and the problems with the opioid epidemic so massive, that turning the journey into one of simple revelations renders moot the pervasive mood that Folmar otherwise captures very well throughout the movie.