‘Pharma Bro’ Review: Behind the Smirk

In the documentary “Pharma Bro,” the director Brent Hodge asks whether the former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli — who gained infamy for hiking the price of the drug Daraprim and was later convicted of fraud in an unrelated matter — really is as bad as his reputation suggests.

Hodge has not obtained significant access to his subject. To prove the unfounded premise that there is more to Shkreli than meets the eye, he moves into Shkreli’s building and does his best to run into him. At one point, he drops by with some beers. He also engages in the time-honored investigative tactic of turning up with a camera at an office building, visiting a company Shkreli founded, Retrophin — and asking to see a P.R. person.

The commentators are no more incisive. Hodge interviews a psychology professor who compares Shkreli to comic-book characters; Christie Smythe, who torpedoed her journalistic career after falling for Shkreli, in what an account in Elle suggested was a one-sided romance; the far-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos; and a Daraprim patient who explains how the price hike interfered with his ability to get medication — until Shkreli hooked him up personally, an experience the patient acknowledges was exceptionally lucky. Two reporters who covered Shkreli for The New York Times also weigh in.

“Pharma Bro” presents one specious argument after another on Shkreli’s behalf: that “nobody” cared about possible fraud and that authorities pursued those charges more aggressively because of Shkreli’s notoriety. That Shkreli was running companies at such a young age that he had no one to point out wrongdoing. Hodge is not always on Shkreli’s side, but he appears convinced he’s made a well-rounded portrait, as opposed to a dubious, bottom-feeding, bro-to-bro testimonial.

Pharma Bro
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes. Rent or buy on Apple TV, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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