What happens when a big, police inspired drug sting goes bad? Most Wanted, from writer/director Daniel Roby, is inspired by a true story of a Canadian man who was used by the police and left hanging in the wind when things turned bad.
Daniel Léger (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) is a recovering heroin addict, who finds himself connected to Glen Picker (Jim Gaffigan), a small-time dealer and informant to the Federal police. He convinces Federal agent Frank Cooper (Stephen McHattie) that Léger can make a big drug deal in Thailand. Cooper, who has been passed over for a promotion, wants to make a name for himself and sets up an extensive and expensive operation in conjunction with the Thai police. It turns out Léger is not the person they all think, and really isn’t up to this task. When things fall apart and a Canadian agent dies in the process, Léger ends up serving a 100 year sentence in a rugged Thai prison.
He would have languished there if not for Victor Malarek (Josh Harnett) an investigative reporter for the Globe and Mail. Mararek is on the outs with the newspaper’s management. He is brash, confident and way too full of himself. But when he goes to Thailand to get an interview with this Canadian citizen that seems to have been abandoned by the Canadian government, he learns that Léger was a patsy who was used by police who want to make this all disappear.
A familiar three-act format might have been a bit more appropriate for the storytelling. Instead we get the story in two parallel timelines, one focusing on Léger and the police operation, the other on Malarek’s investigation. Knowing this going in may make the first quarter of the movie a bit more understandable as it alternates between timelines.
The story is one of ambitions. Léger is an innocent person caught up in a battle of people looking to advance themselves. Picker is in this for the money he’s promised when the operation is completed. Cooper wants to prove that he should have a better position in the RCMP. Malarek enters this fray looking for a big story, but discovers that the person who this story revolves around is more important than the story he wants. Malarek becomes the agent of justice in the story.
It also speaks to the way a person can be seen as expendable to someone’s ambitions. Léger’s life was considered by the police involved to be so unimportant that it didn’t matter that he would spend his life in jail for what they orchestrated. And to protect the institutional integrity of the police, the government was willing to let this one, unimportant, former drug addict suffer what was not really his doing.
The film is set during the time of the US War on Drugs, and Canada’s own version of that. One of the keys that makes that “war” so ineffective was the idea that those involved with drugs were in some way unworthy of the protection of the law or of basic human consideration. It resulted in long, unjust prison sentences with no real consideration of the harm done to people in need. Daniel Léger is only one example.
Most Wanted is available through Virtual Cinema at local art houses and on VOD.
Photos courtesy of Saban Films.