This lively and engaging documentary may be set out like an informercial, but it teaches us about the drug trade with a pungent sting in its tail. The emphasis is on how America's War on Drugs has only made things worse, criminalising the wrong people and missing the whole point of the drug issue. It's a strong statement, made with passion, intelligence and a refreshing lack of political correctness.
"If the American Dream broke its promise to you, we have an answer!" This is how the film opens, informing us that the American population is the biggest market for marijuana and cocaine on earth. So keeping them supplied is a job that can't help but earn you a fortune as you climb from being a corner supplier to a local dealer to a kingpin to a cartel boss, all while learning lessons from cops and federal agents. And even working with them. Sure, there are dangers, including violence and prison, but the money you can make is worth the risk.
Obviously, this is deeply sarcastic. Telling stories are recounted on-screen by a wide variety of interviewees including activists like Sarandon and Harrelson, former dealers (Jackson), ex-addicts (Mathers, aka Eminem), cops, lawyers, scholars and even a TV series creator (The Wire's Simon). All of them point out the dangers of drugs as well as the fact that people use them because they feel good.
Most unnerving is the history of drug laws, which started with overtly racist legislation in the 19th century and grew into "war" status by Nixon's and Reagan's equally shameless displays of paranoid bigotry. But the problem has only escalated, turning American into the world's biggest prison state. Filmmaker Cooke presents this with a fresh voice, rejecting the status quo for something that might actually work for people who need help while ending the lawlessness of the drug trade. But he also knows politicians aren't willing to do something that will actually make the nation a better place, because it might cost them votes. Which is why we need documentaries like this to get our blood boiling.
Run time: 96 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 26th December 2013
Box Office USA: $15.3k
Distributed by: Tribeca Films
Production compaines: Bert Marcus Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Fresh: 30 Rotten: 9
IMDB: 7.8 / 10
Director: Matthew Cooke
Producer: Adrian Grenier, Bert Marcus
Screenwriter: Matthew Cooke
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