Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner Reportedly Blocked Jon Hamm From Starring In David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner Reportedly Blocked Jon Hamm From Starring In David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' Sacha Baron Cohen Reportedly Returning To Write, Produce, Star In & Direct The Freddie Mercury Biopic Sacha Baron Cohen Reportedly Returning To Write, Produce, Star In & Direct The Freddie Mercury Biopic Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' Why Is It Suddenly Not OK To Have Been Gripped By 'The Jinx'? Why Is It Suddenly Not OK To Have Been Gripped By 'The Jinx'? New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Watch: Explore The Loneliness Of Sofia Coppola's Films With This Supercut Watch: Explore The Loneliness Of Sofia Coppola's Films With This Supercut 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'How To Make Money Selling Drugs' Preaches To The Converted

Photo of Erik McClanahan By Erik McClanahan | The Playlist June 28, 2013 at 2:44PM

Under certain circumstances, selling drugs to earn a living becomes a choice for many. Humans are nothing if not survivors, eking out a living by any means necessary to put food on the table, pay bills, and stay afloat. Beyond teaching viewers the correct way to pronounce sheeeeit, "The Wire" gracefully portrayed the lack of options for many people, proving the drug game isn't everything, it's the only thing. But what if we could actually choose what we want to do with our lives, and the moral quandary wasn't an issue? Just like Sonny told the "The Godfather," "There's a lot of money in that white powder."
0
How To Make Money Selling Drugs

Under certain circumstances, selling drugs to earn a living becomes a choice for many. Humans are nothing if not survivors, eking out a living by any means necessary to put food on the table, pay bills, and stay afloat. Beyond teaching viewers the correct way to pronounce sheeeeit, "The Wire" gracefully portrayed the lack of options for many people, proving the drug game isn't everything, it's the only thing. But what if we could actually choose what we want to do with our lives, and the moral quandary wasn't an issue? Just like Sonny told the "The Godfather," "There's a lot of money in that white powder."

How To Make Money Selling Drugs

Writer/director Matthew Cooke (along with Vinnie Chase himself, Adrian Grenier, on board as producer) does away with moral compunctions in "How to Make Money Selling Drugs," a sort-of modern day response to hilariously misguided propaganda films like "Reefer Madness." The film is often compelling, clever and entertaining, but oddly enough, these strongest moments are revealed in an awkward third act tonal and structural shift to be nothing more than filler. The filmmakers basically retcon their movie, taking what plays quite well, for the first hour or so, as a satiric riff on video games and get rich quick videos, and turn it in to its own piece of familiar agitprop. Once the agenda -- damning the exorbitant cost and overall ineffectiveness of the War on Drugs -- becomes clear, what's frustrating is not that the rug has been pulled out from under the audience (the film is pro freedom/drug/recovery from the outset, which we're cool with), but that it abandons the playful structure that made it such a fun, interesting watch in place of something sadly more by-the-numbers.

Despite the crazy, not always believable onslaught of facts being thrown at the viewer (9 out of 10 U.S. $20 dollar bills are tainted with cocaine...wait, huh?), the first hour had this writer seriously considering giving up this poor man's game of film criticism and venturing into the exciting world of drug dealing. It looks that easy! Which, of course, it's not, but realizing that actually strengthens and adds humor to the structural tactic employed for the documentary. After all, can any movie solely teach you how to get rich quick in anything?

How To Make Money Selling Drugs

The best moments come from specifics, as former drug dealers describe how and why drugs became their life and career. Many of the subjects are charismatic, forthright and funny. Their stories are familiar, but their candor and comfort in front of the camera feels modern and fresh. There's Pepe, a retired SoCal drug dealer with a great smile, who spouts off one winning line after another, so good that the filmmakers couldn't resist plastering them on the screen with bold text (another playful and appropriate move): "Weed makes friends," "Anyone can do it," "To grow some weed all you need is electricity, big lamps and water... buy the seeds on the Internet." Brian O'Dea is a fascinating hybrid of Goerge Jung (who Johnny Depp portrayed in "Blow") and Walter White. When 'Drugs' is firing on all cylinders, it feels as if you're in a room with these people, just listening to one crazy story after another. The common thread: the reason people sell drugs is not too harm others, they just needed to make a lot of money and fast. They all did this, and so can you, the film is saying with a devilish grin and winking eye.

But, again, this is a documentary at odds with itself. Plenty of addiction testimonials in the third act from the subjects and celebrities like Eminem serve to prevent the film from veering onto a pro-drug agenda, but it comes out of nowhere, especially if you're enjoying what's come before, and it alters the film in a way that feels less satisfying than what you've been led to believe the film is going for. Instead, the message comes thick and heavy in the climax: we're spending way too much on a war we can't possibly win and people should be allowed to do what they want to do, if this is indeed a free country. Admittedly, it's refreshing to see celebrities like Susan Sarandon and Woody Harrelson (if you've already seen "This is the End" you'll have flashbacks to Jonah Hill's line, "Weed is for the people, it's the people's weed.) talk more about the potential for lots of fun doing drugs than the dangers, but it also shows the film losing its grip on tone. Basically, if you like drugs or have no problem with others doing what they choose to do with their body, then "How to Make Money Selling Drugs" will preach to your already converted mentality. The biggest failing of this mostly enjoyable documentary is that it works like a Michael Moore film. It probably won't convince those outside the circle, it will only serve to push them further away. That's a shame. [B-]

This article is related to: How To Make Money Selling Drugs, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Woody Harrelson, David Simon, Susan Sarandon, Eminem, Adrian Grenier, Matthew Cooke, Reviews, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates