The ludicrous organ-harvesting thriller Inhale opens and closes with scary facts about the transplant business: Even in America, the ratio of needy patients to available organs is 10 to 1, which has opened up a thriving black market for illegal parts obtained by dubious means. It’s a case of Third World violation for First World privilege, and there’s a great movie to be made about the moral dilemma of wealthy people closing their eyes, plugging their noses, and choosing their loved ones’ health over the fate of an unknown, perhaps unwilling, donor. But Inhale falls in some terrible nether region between docudrama and pulp: In following one man’s violent misadventures through the Mexican medical underworld, it’s neither remotely convincing as true-to-life drama or lurid and propulsive enough to work as exploitation. It’s just bad.
Right away, Inhale starts stacking the deck. Dermot Mulroney plays a letter-of-the-law New Mexico prosecutor who’s first shown pushing for the maximum sentence on a father who shot his sex-offender neighbor to protect his daughter. Then lo, Mulroney ends up in the same situation when his own daughter needs a lung transplant, and he has to break the law to get one. (Boy, that prosecutor is really going to throw the book at himself when he finds out about this.) With $100,000 on hand, Mulroney rushes south of the border to Juarez, Mexico to find a black-market doctor (Jordy Mollà) who doesn’t want to be found.
It’s clear from the beginning where Inhale is heading: Are Mulroney and his wife, played by Diane Kruger, willing to choose their little girl’s life over that of someone he doesn’t know? But director Baltasar Kormákur (101 Reykjavik) and his screenwriters, John Claflin and Walter A. Doty III, are shameless in the way they go about rigging this decision. Their Mexico is teeming with thieves, thugs, and packs of lost children on every corner, and even legitimate hospitals seem to be staffed by doctors and nurses of sinister intent. Inhale wants to be taken seriously as moral inquiry, and shake the audience with its descent into the organ-harvesting underworld. But from the moment Mulroney gets blown by a transvestite in a blackmail plot, all credibility is lost.