Review: In ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli Lives Up to His Reputation as “The Most Hated Man in America”

PHARMA BRO

Martin Shkreli, the 38-year-old financial entrepreneur and pharmaceutical tycoon from Brooklyn, New York, was dubbed “the most hated man in America” by the media after he rose to infamy in 2015 for price gouging the prescription drug Daraprim by 5500% overnight depriving patients of the life-saving medication. That same year, Shkreli purchased the Wu-Tang Clan’s single copy of “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” for 2 million dollars, and was arrested for securities fraud, eventually resulting in the subsequent forfeiture of the album and recent reselling of it by the U.S. government to an anonymous buyer to pay off Shkreli’s debt. He has gained notoriety for his unchecked online presence, which was ultimately his downfall and sent him to prison, where he continues to provoke the public with bombastic declarations about finding a cure for the virus which has upended the world, Covid-19.


This was hard to watch. The documentary PharmaBro: An In-Depth Look at “The Most Hated Man in America” is exactly what it sounds like– an approximately 90 minute deep dive into a man so profoundly unlikeable that despite filmmaker Brent Hodge’s best efforts to develop a nuanced character study, Martin Shkreli remains a nihilistic cartoon until the end. Shkreli is the rare kind of person that is who you think he is: a prolific online troll that thrives off of controversy, leans into his worst impulses, and utilizes notoriety as a springboard to fame. 

Martin Shkreli – AKA Pharma Bro
Credit: Nigel Parry

Martin Shkreli’s utter lack of redeeming qualities, unfortunately, makes the rest of the film fall flat. It is impossible to care that his Livestream fans think he’s the victim of a witch hunt, particularly because the same community aided and abetted such severe harassment of Teen Vogue journalist Lauren Duca that Shkreli became one of the first high profile accounts permanently banned from Twitter. Trump-era horror show Milo Yiannopoulos, a personal friend of Shkreli’s, has multiple confessionals in a bizarre and distasteful addition. Somehow, even the feud with the Wu-Tang clan misses the mark.

The most interesting parts of this film confront and analyze what Shkreli did. While renowned for his ethically vapid pharmaceutical drug pricing, ultimately, he was convicted of securities fraud stemming from multiple Ponzi schemes. I would love to know more about the actual crime that caught up to him at last, and I am fascinated by the concept of an “orphan drug” hedge fund market. What under-the-radar mad capitalist is leading that industry now? Has the government conducted subsequent investigations or drafted new regulations? Is there an activist movement? Alas, those questions are left unanswered.


Available On Digital Platforms For Rent or Purchase Tomorrow, October 5, 2021


Directed by Brent Hodge (A Brony Tale, I Am Chris Farley, Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary)
Produced by Blumhouse Television and Hodgee Films

Featuring:
Martin Shkreli

Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah
Musical artist and friend of Shkreli, Billy The Fridge 
Journalist Christie Smythe
Shkreli Defense Attorney Ben Brafman

About Britni Rillera

Britni Rillera grew up in Los Angeles but spent many years in D.C. where she worked in politics for as long as humanly possible before moving back to the west coast. Although by day she now works in Big Tech, by night she is a writer and film enthusiast. Fun fact: Britni is still riding the high of a viral Tweet she made in 2018.