The first act of How to Make Money Selling Drugs is seductive and almost glib as it eases viewers into the big business world of doing just what its title promises. It almost seems intended to court, uncritically, the folks who have made Scarface a cultural bible and Cocaine Cowboys a lifestyle guide. Kicking off with 50 Cent once again burnishing his mythology as he recounts his childhood days selling drugs, and running on the giddy energy--the high--that comes with outwitting "the man," the frequently hilarious film is, initially, appalling and magnetic and a little dangerous. That's shrewd. How hawks decadent possibility—underscoring its allure for those who come from places of struggle—before settling into a historically grounded, wide-reaching critique of America's disastrous drug war, with an emphasis on its racist and classist policies. The desire for power, cheap glamour, and seemingly endless money and sex for the men profiled (dealers of all races) is almost always rooted in childhoods marked by violence, economic struggle, or loss-- or all of the above. That's not to play the violin for criminality, but it does underscore the fact that most players in the drug game-- especially the low-level dealers--are driven by genuine need and a lack of other options. The film becomes somber without sacrificing its droll humor or righteous indignation, although viewers will feel some deflation at the loss of its frenetic energy. The trade-off is a lesson on the evolution of attitudes toward drugs in America and the bigoted propaganda employed to rile the masses against drug use.
Matthew CookeWoody Harrelson, Susan Sarandon, 50 Cent, Eminem, David Simon, Matthew Cooke, Freeway Ricky Ross, Brian O'DeaMatthew Cooke, Grant JollyBert MarcusTribeca Films