While it won’t win any Oscars, Matthew Cooke’s new documentary How To Make Money Selling Drugs may take the prize for being the shallowest and most glib film of the year. Produced by Entourage’s Adrian Grenier, the first?and more egregious?half of the film is laid out like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for folks looking to get into the coke-and-weed slinging game. Cheesily narrated and edited together with low-rent videogame-style charts and graphics, we hear from former dealers (including rapper 50 Cent) about just how easy and glamorous it is to make millions on the streets. So easy, in fact, that even you could do it. And here’s how! These veterans from the trenches share their step-by-step tips on how to graduate from street corner hustler to exalted ranks of kingpin: How to cut cocaine with baby laxative to double your profits; how to beat an arrest; and why you should never pack heat unless you plan on shooting to kill.
If all of this is meant to be a satirical, tongue-in-cheek way into examining the problem of drugs in America, the conceit doesn’t work. And if it really is intended to be taken literally as an instructional self-help guide, it’s ham-handed and borderline irresponsible. I’ll give Cooke and Grenier the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s the former.
The second half of the movie is only slightly better. It examines the futility of America’s counterproductive war on drugs. Celebrities like Russell Simmons and Susan Sarandon drop by to share their thoughts on our nation’s ineffective drug policies. The Wire’s David Simon weighs in on the thoughtlessness of the Reagan administration’s ”Just Say No” campaign (accompanied by several clips from his show). And Woody Harrelson and Eminem share their views on legalization and addiction. At one point, a federal drug agent says that if these dealers redirected all of the creativity they use to avoid being caught into legitimate business, they’d be hailed as successful entrepreneurs. You could say the same thing about the makers of this misguided and muddled film. If they used an ounce of their resources and connections making a better movie, they might have made something worth watching. D