Daniella Mason and Alan Powell in Shooting Heroin (Photo: Veritas Films)

★★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Spencer T. Folmar
STARS Alan Powell, Sherilyn Fenn

Take a faith-based film and run it through the Death Wish template, and the result is Shooting Heroin, a sincere attempt to stare down the opioid crisis that’s been ravaging the nation.

Written and directed by Spencer T. Folmar, Shooting Heroin focuses on Adam (Alan Powell), a war veteran whose troubled life in his small Pennsylvania town becomes even more torturous once his sister Cheyenne (Daniella Mason), a former drug addict, suffers a relapse and ends up fatally overdosing. Adam rightly blames the area’s drug dealers, and he’s not alone in casting his gaze their way. Also fed up are Hazel (Sherilyn Fenn), who lost both her sons to drugs in a span of just a few hours, and Edward (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), a prison guard who feels that these lowlifes must be stopped “by any means necessary.”

The three concerned citizens decide to approach Jerry (Garry Pastore), Adam’s friend and the only law enforcement officer servicing this struggling community, and volunteer their services as a watch group meant to keep tabs on the local pushers. Jerry reluctantly deputizes them, only to almost immediately regret his decision. While Hazel takes a pacifist approach to her responsibilities, Edward and especially Adam are operating in vigilante mode, brandishing firearms and roughing up anyone who seems to be on the wrong side of the law.

Garry Pastore in Shooting Heroin (Photo: Veritas Films)

The gritty ambience is an asset, as are the performances. Pastore is the cast standout as the lawman who sympathizes with Adam yet refuses to allow him to be a loose cannon, and Mason is impressive in her minimal screen time as the sister who’s ultimately not strong enough to prevent her life from again spiraling out of control. Shooting Heroin includes several familiar faces: In addition to Fenn (Audrey Horne on Twin Peaks) and Hilton-Jacobs (Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington on Welcome Back, Kotter), there’s also Cathy Moriarty (Oscar-nominated for Raging Bull) as Adam’s mother, Nicholas Turturro (Emmy-nominated for NYPD Blue) as the community’s priest, and Brian O’Halloran (Clerks) as a bar fixture.

There are many fine moments sprinkled throughout the first two-thirds of the picture, including Hazel’s heartfelt plea to a high school assemblage to just say no and Adam’s angry confrontation with a doctor who hands out prescriptions as if they were Halloween treats. It’s only after the death of a major character that the film loses its bearing and its focus, with cumbersome speeches crowding out the more naturalistic dialogue and a meandering and ham-fisted stretch involving two competing marches as well as threats of mob violence. These late-inning mishaps aren’t enough to derail what’s overall a compelling movie, but they do prevent it from completely getting under the skin.

(Shooting Heroin is now available on Amazon Prime, Fandango Now, Vudu, and other streaming services.)

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