You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘American Relapse’

Two recovering addicts strive to help South Florida junkies get clean in Pat McGee and Adam Linkenhelt’s insightful documentary.

Pat McGee, Adam Linkenhelt
Allie Severino, Frankie Holmes.
Release Date:
Mar 29, 2019

1 hour 45 minutes

As if it weren’t difficult enough to survive their drug habits — as well as lives on the streets — addicts in Delray Beach, Fla. must also contend with a predatory healthcare industry that views them as a source of continued profit. That’s the argument made by “American Relapse,” directors Pat McGee and Adam Linkenhelt’s illuminating documentary about two recovering addicts, Frankie Holmes and Allie Severino, striving to get desperate men and women the help they need. As both a primer on the Sunshine State’s insurance paradigm and a snapshot of narcotics dependency, it boasts an urgency that, post-theatrical release, should help it score a small-screen audience.

A companion piece to McGee and Linkenhelt’s Viceland series “Dopesick Nation,” which similarly focuses on Frankie and Allie, albeit in more in-depth fashion, “American Relapse” is most eye-opening in its explanation of the scams that drive the treatment business in Delray Beach, the supposed “Relapse Capital of the World.” Thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s decision to cover addiction services, facilities can reap considerable windfalls by funneling drug users with health insurance through their programs, which involve pit-stops at detox and partial hospitalization and outpatient centers — all of which do little to actually cure the afflicted, who are soon back using and then, if lucky, back in the program to restart the cycle.

This monetization of addiction has led to a “gold rush” predicated, as McGee and Linhkenhelt repeatedly visualize, on the valuable (positive-testing) urine of men and women in dire straits. It’s a system facilitated by “junkie hunters,” who scour the streets on behalf of clinics, looking for easy targets. Frankie and Allie are in that business, but the film’s ride-along footage of them at work bolsters their claims that they’re not out to exploit. Rather, since both are former users themselves (Frankie with the facial burn scars to show for it, caused by a factory mishap while high), they sincerely empathize with their down-and-out clients, and afford them aid even when they don’t have insurance.

Over the course of a Friday-Monday weekend, Frankie and Allie’s vocation brings them into contact with the very milieu, and sorts of individuals, they’ve tried to escape — at least to an extent, given that Allie’s boyfriend is also in recovery. Triggers abound, and it’s no surprise when temptations prove to be too great. McGee and Linkenhelt don’t shy away from the ugliness and misery of this underworld, providing stark images of people cooking smack on back-alley garbage cans and shooting it into their ankles, sleeping next to train tracks on filthy mattresses amidst garbage, and weeping as they embark on yet another trip to rehab.

As an on-the-ground portrait of addiction, there’s little here that hasn’t been seen before (especially if one has watched TV’s “Intervention”). And the aesthetic devices used by the directors to embellish their material — including educational and archival videos, split-screens, slow-motion, time-lapse footage, and lingering close-ups of needles and money — are a bit too self-consciously stylish for their own good. Nonetheless, their film captures the recurring nightmare of substance abuse, which makes enduring the unthinkable (homelessness, prostitution, crime, death) an inevitable facet of one’s day-to-day. In the face of such degradation and desperation, it’s no wonder that Frankie and Allie find themselves struggling to not only stay on the straight and narrow, but to continue doing work that, as “American Relapse” suggests, leads to little positive change.

Film Review: 'American Relapse'

Reviewed online, Stamford, Conn., March 26, 2019. Running time: 105 MIN.

Production: A Gravitas Ventures release of a Pat McGee Pictures production in association with Sorted Pictures, Next Up Prods. Producers: Terry Hahin, Dennis Hill, Devon Collins, Adam Linkenhelt. Executive producers: Ian Manheimer, Jaime Manheimer, Stacy McPeak, Pat McGee.

Crew: Directors: Pat McGee, Adam Linkenhelt. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Michael Goodman. Editors: Adam Linhkenhelt, Terry Hahin. Music: Dennis Hill.

With: Allie Severino, Frankie Holmes.

More Film

  • Jon Feltheimer

    Lionsgate Posts Loss, Underperforms Wall Street Expectations

    Lionsgate has posted a quarterly loss and its revenues and operating income have come in under Wall Street projections, despite growth from its premium cable channel, Starz. The studio reported a net loss of $24 million, or 11 cents a share, with adjusted operating income of $103 million for its fourth fiscal quarter ended March [...]

  • Cannes: China's 'Summer of Changsha' Debuts

    Cannes: China's 'Summer of Changsha' Debuts Without Censorship Approval

    Chinese crime drama “Summer of Changsha” screened at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section despite lacking the necessary approvals from China’s censors. It premiered without its director or creative team in attendance, who blamed “technical reasons” for their absence — marking the third time that Chinese censorship appears to have caused [...]

  • Jane Austin SAG AFTRA

    SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Jane Austin Running for President

    Jane Austin, the National Secretary-Treasurer of SAG-AFTRA, has become the third candidate for the presidency of the performers union, joining incumbent Gabrielle Carteris and Matthew Modine. Austin is running as an independent for the top post at SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members. Carteris will seek re-election as the head of the ticket for the Unite [...]

  • John Wick Chapter 3

    'John Wick: Chapter 3' Tones Down the Blood and Gore to Keep Look 'Totally Real'

    When Jeff Campbell, a visual effects supervisor with VFX studio Spin, initially set to work on the first “John Wick,” the 2014 action thriller from director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad, he started with an industry-standard test: Establish a single, simple kill effect meant to get a sense of the look of the violence [...]

  • Louise Courvoisier’s ‘Mano a Mano’ Wins Cinéfondation

    Louise Courvoisier’s ‘Mano a Mano’ Wins Cannes Cinefondation Selection Top Prize

    CANNES–“Mano a Mano,” by Louise Courvoisier of France’s CinéFabrique, won the first prize Thursday at the 22nd Cinéfondation Selection,the Cannes Film Festival’s top film school shorts awards. The prize was awarded by a jury headed by French director Claire Denis (“Beau Travail”). The jury also included French actress Stacy Martin (“Godard mon amour”); Israeli writer-director Eran [...]

  • The Traitor

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Traitor'

    What surprises most about Marco Bellocchio’s Mafia drama “The Traitor” is just how straightforward it is. Given its subject — Tommaso Buscetta, the highest-ranking Mafia don to sing to the authorities — there were expectations that the director would deliver a theatrical drama along the lines of “Vincere,” but notwithstanding a few operatic flourishes, his [...]

  • Perfect Strangers

    Zhao Tao, Rajkumar Hirani Join Shanghai Festival Jury

    Italian director Paolo Genovese and Chinese actress Zhao Tao are among members of the jury for the upcoming Shanghai International Film Festival. They join the previously announced jury president, 2014 Cannes Palme d’Or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the Turkish director behind last year’s “The Wild Pear Tree.” Genovese’s 2016 film “Perfect Strangers” made $7.7 million [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content