REVIEW: ‘The Oxy Kingpins’ mainlines a shot of reality to Cucalorus 2021

Niko Giammanco, Contributing Writer

Like a “sit-down” between Big Pharma and “The Godfather,” “The Oxy Kingpins,” a documentary directed by Brendan Fitzgerald (also known for Gaycation) and Nick August-Perna (also known for The Swell Season), delivers an in-your-face take on the hypocrisy of capitalism and its ability to skirt justice for the sake of money, causing the intentional pain of millions of addicted Americans, with no hint of remorse insight. 

The slightly over 80-minute-long documentary opens with a line that mirrors that of Martin Scorsese’s 1990 cult classic, “Goodfellas”: “For me, I like being a drug dealer.” From that moment, the hook is set. Enter the slick-looking, tattooed Alex Dimattio from New York City, one of two main characters and the real “kingpin” of the film. He regales the audience with gritty, sometimes humorous stories of his shady dealings at the start of his Oxycontin-slinging career. From the blue waters and sandy beaches of Miami Beach, where he initially moved to sell wholesale heroin, to his discovery of the hyper-addictive nature of Oxy, Dimattio recounts a story about the luxurious lifestyle of a drug kingpin. “Oxy is really just doctor-approved heroin,” he says. Disturbing, yet true. As it turns out, the “lifestyle” isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. After the money and the women and the drugs take their toll on Dimattio, he becomes lazy, complacent in his lifestyle. He begins shipping his Oxy up the eastern seaboard to dealer-buddies in NYC and Boston by way of FedEx. Not the brightest idea. It doesn’t take long for the bottom to fall out and Alex finds himself on the run and contemplating his potential new life in Mexico. 

A still from “The Oxy Kingpins” (2021). (Nick August-Perna, Brendan Fitzgerald)

Mike Papantonio, a tenacious, top-tier lawyer (and partner) from the law firm Levin Papantonio Rafferty picks up Alex’s case and is the other major player in this film. Papantonio sinks his teeth into what is, so far, a losing battle against Big Pharma manufacturers and the distributors of Oxy that have contributed to America’s hellacious opioid outbreak. Papantonio is crafting a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) case on the top three Big Pharma corporations: McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen. The trial is set to be held in Nevada in Jan. 2023. 

Phone calls from Papantonio in Pensacola, Florida, the law firm’s headquarters, to Dimattio’s (now legit) motor-bike shop in NYC serves as the umbilical cord throughout the film, keeping the audience engaged. In the first half-hour of the film, conversations between the two characters, along with individual segments that include street level suppliers and dealers, run the gambit. Scenes include how the distributors were all  too  willing to dump eight-million pills into a town of 500 people with one pharmacy. They also show how Dimattio chose to exploit Walgreens because they had no official regulations on prescription drug flow, could be found “literally everywhere” and had a convenient drive-thru feature that lent itself perfectly to the drug peddling operation. 

Fitzgerald and August-Perna crafted a film that shows how giant pharmaceutical companies and distributors have taken advantage of America’s rural areas, or as Papantonio called it, the areas of despair. “The Oxy Kingpins” points a direct finger at the “untouchables” of this crisis: The CEOs that make more than enough money to keep the crosshairs off them, but manage to fix the blame on medium-wage pharmacists and street level drug dealers. Essentially, as sales increase, addiction increases, which translates to death increasing. The white collar members, those that make up the one percenters, have transfixed America into believing this is solely a blue-collar, city-dwelling issue. Their hands are clean. To this point, Dimattio says, “capitalism equals money, money equals power, power equals no jail time.” “The Oxy Kingpins” is a documentary that stirs an already boiling pot and leaves one with lasting questions; Questions that may be the key to ending this terrifying American epidemic.