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We Are Movie Geeks: ADDICTION INCORPORATED – The Review

March 22, 2012 : By Jim Batts

The new motion picture ADDICTION INCORPORATED is part of a unique group of documentaries in that it’s essentially a small budget prequel to a big studio prestige docudrama of several years ago : Michael Mann’s THE INSIDER. The multi-Oscar nominated flick told the true tale of whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand ( he’s involved in this new film, too ) who revealed to network news producers ( CBS’s ” 60 Minutes ” to be exact ) that tobacco companies were using special additives to cigarettes to make them more addictive ( the film referred to ‘ spiking ‘ ). After viewing the Al Pacino/ Russell Crowe work, you may have wondered how ‘ big tobacco ‘ happened upon this formula. Well wonder no more! Film maker Charles Evans, Jr. has given us all the facts, figures, numbers, and testimonies anchored by one man’s desire to deliver the facts.

That man is scientist Victor DeNoble and most of this film chronicles his 30 year journey from classrooms through private company research labs to the halls of congress and courtrooms returning finally to the halls of academia. DeNoble was plucked out of college to work a high paying job in the research division of tobacco giant Phillip Morris. PM wanted to find a way to replace or severely reduce nicotine since it seems to promote heart attacks and other fatal maladies in their customers ( gotta’ keep em’ alive to keep on buying the product! ). A red flag should have popped up when Victor and his fellow scientists were allowed to use rats for this study ( the companies had mutually agreed that there would be no animal testing ). In trying to approximate cigarette usage in the rats, they found that nicotine combined with another chemical, acetaldehyde, to make the tobacco more addictive ( in the mornings the rats would go right to the nicotine delivery pedal forgoing food and water ). After their findings were presented to the company’s board of directors, the research was halted and the scientists were out of PM headquarters and worked on a freelance basis ( as opposed to being part of the in-house staff ). . Several years later someone gets this info to ABC ( specifically the producers of the late prime-time news magazine ” Day One ” ) which leads to congressional hearings and multi-state lawsuits. This draws in DeNoble and his ex-colleagues who must make many life-changing decisions concerning their past employers and their future.

Evans keeps the film moving at a brisk pace and does his best to avoid miring us in too much scientific jargon. Some of the story telling techniques trip up the film somewhat. Animation of the lab rats is useful in illustrating the study’s research methods, but later on things get a bit too whimsical when the rats are further anthropomorphized into humans with tails, large, wide noses, and pointed ears drifting down a tranquil lake, floating on a raft like Huck Finn. I suppose it’s to illustrate a blissful nicotine high, but it takes us out of the story’s flow ( especially when several ‘ rat people ‘ have an old-fashioned moonlight dance ). Things get back on track quickly after some crude ” Mad Men”- type seventies era recreated sequences. The use of real TV footage ( great timing to have a 90′s clip of a blustery Rush Limbaugh ), newspaper headlines, and current interviews of the principals involved ( you basic doc talking heads ) proves quite enlightening. Like most fiction films, this benefits from the a strong hero ( DeNoble, appropriate moniker! ) and an even stronger villain: big tobacco. Like Ed Harris’s evil businessman in MAN ON A LEDGE, these guys come off as arrogant, sneaky, and very hiss-able. We get that classic news shot of the major company representatives swearing-in before Congress, then almost in unison claiming ignorance of their product’s additive qualities. Just amazing. Finally they were vulnerable to lawsuits that their powerhouse legal team had crushed for so many years. So vulnerable that they all almost went under! ADDITION INCORPORATED is a surprisingly entertaining tribute to investigative journalism. And be sure to stick around for the pre-end credits coda for an update on Mr. D. It’s a twist that would make O Henry smile.

Source: We Are Movie Geeks