“Write what you know” may be a cliche, but it can also be helpful advice. Filmmaker Johnny Hickey, for example, used his life experience to fuel the 2012 Oxy-Morons movie. The film not only captures a glimpse of a family on the brink, but also maybe a nation.
Who is Johnny Hickey?: A Look into the Making of the 2012 Oxy-Morons Movie
According to Hickey himself, his life was on track as a straight-A high school student. Then he and his mother moved from Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood to Gloucester. After that, it’s unclear what exactly happened, but Hickey ended up in jail for fighting. Jail, unsurprisingly, did not lead to bigger and better things for Hickey. Instead, his life spiraled. He developed an addiction to the prescription painkiller OxyContin, and he became an “Oxy bandit,” robbing drugstores for fixes.
After a “rival gang” threw him off “an 80-foot cliff,” according to Hickey’s bio, Hickey found his way back. Sentenced to prison, he began writing his story. With help, he learned how to structure it as a screenplay and Oxy-Morons was the end result. Hickey then used the same quick thinking that made him a successful criminal, channeling his instincts as a hustler into nabbing film locations. He also got real Boston police to appear in the film, probably because of the movie’s anti-drug stance.
Hickey Tells His Own Story
As Hickey’s own life served as an inspiration for the film, it’s no surprise that the movie’s story hews closely to his own. Hickey even stars in the film as “Danny.” It’s late 90s Boston, and he and brother Jason (David Burns) are going nowhere fast when we meet them. Then everything gets worse. Their mom, Patty (Patty Ross), suffers from chronic pain. When her doctor prescribes a new pill, it seems the answer to her prayers.
Purdue Pharma developed OxyContin ostensibly for people like Patty. Because they designed it to be time-released, it could deliver long-lasting results for people in pain. And it worked for a lot of people. Unfortunately, it worked too well for many others.
That’s what we see play out in Oxy-Morons. At first, Danny and Jason take it for the “right” reasons–nevermind that it wasn’t prescribed to them. Then they start taking it recreationally, realizing the street value at the same time. After that, as their addictions take hold, they become drugstore cowboys.
Oxy-Morons never shies away from the grimy, repulsive aspects of drug use and crime. Hickey explains in a voiceover that he changed the names of people in the story, but not because they were innocent. No one is innocent, he says. And no one is glamorous, either. This isn’t the glitzy depiction of a powerful drug kingpin. This is a movie that aims to show the realities of drug addiction in all its grotesque effects.
What Do Viewers Say?
Reviews from viewers have been mixed. Many people who watched the movie appreciated its point-of-view, as well as the raw you-are-there aspect. They liked, for example, that Hickey never depicts life as a drug addict as anything romantic or cool. In addition, people from the Boston area or New England in general felt that Oxy-Morons was a decent portrait of the area at the time. Some even expressed that they dealt with their own addictions back then, or knew folks who did, and thought the movie was accurate to their experiences.
On the other hand, other viewers were more critical. They derided the acting and dialogue as amateurish. Others thought it was a little over-the-top. And contrary to positive reviewers, some other reviewers questioned the accuracy.
Many viewers, though, no matter what their rating, praised the film for its anti-drug message.
Oxy-Morons is available on demand on Roku – sign up and watch it on HorrorMax TV!
featured image via Synergetic, Equilibrio Films, and Johnny Dangerously Films
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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.