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L.A. Times, Capsule movie reviews: ‘Addiction Incorporated’

January 13, 2012 : By Mark Olsen

There are few more widely agreed-upon contemporary villains than the American tobacco industry — what with footage of smug executives disingenuously answering questions before Congress still so vivid in the collective memory. The documentary “Addiction Incorporated” tells part of the story of how these men got themselves called to those hearings through the story of one-time industry scientist turned whistle blower and activist Victor J. DeNoble.

Originally tasked with looking for more healthful alternatives to nicotine in cigarettes, DeNoble also turned up ways to increase the addictiveness of tobacco. His research was shut down and he was fired, with the industry happy to benefit from but not publicly acknowledge such findings.

Director Charles Evans Jr. does a handy job of conveying a fair amount of technical information pretty quickly and efficiently (though he leans a little too heavily on cutesy animation at times) before getting to the heart of his story, a stand-off between the government and the tobacco industry over transparency and regulation, with many like DeNoble caught in between.

Though on the surface this might all sound like a documentary analogue to Michael Mann’s “The Insider,” about a different tobacco whistle blower, Evans mines enough fresh info from the story that it feels at times familiar but not redundant.

The film’s bigger problem is that after a certain point the way in which Evans allows DeNoble to narrate his own story comes to feel self-congratulatory and makes “Addiction Incorporated” seem a bit more like an advertisement or an endorsement than an investigation or exploration.

“Addiction Incorporated.” MPAA rating: PG for thematic material involving smoking and addiction, and for some language. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes. At the Nuart, West Los Angeles.