Crime Drama Thriller

Silk Road

“The Social Network” it’s not, but bold and interesting it is.

I’ve never even heard of the Silk Road dark web site before, but when the movie “Silk Road” came to mind, I’ve learned that it was distributing illegal drugs. It was referred to as “the Ebay for hidden drugs.” The creator of the site, Ross Ulbricht, made sure the buyers can use bitcoins to buy the drugs anonymously. “Was” and “made,” because the site was shut down by the FBI in 2013, and Ross is currently serving a double life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.

Nick Robinson stars as Ross, and his character becomes so consumed by the site that he destroys his own relationship with Julia (Alexandra Shipp, reuniting with Robinson from “Love Simon”). He does an excellent job at playing a computer genius at the level of Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network” and Jospeh Gordon-Levitt in “Snowden.” And it’s also refreshing to see how this fine young actor can step up his game by taking on various genres (“Jurassic World,” “Love Simon,” etc.).

Meanwhile, Rick (Jason Clarke) is a disgraced DEA agent, who comes across the site, and catfishes his messages in order to bring him down. For one thing, he has his little girl Edie (Lexi Rabe) take pictures of him as a bad guy in hoodie and has his informant Rayford (Darrell Brit-Gibson) help him post it on the site. And for another thing, he stages the site’s administrator Curtis Clark Green’s (Paul Walter Hauser) fake murder by drowning him in a bathtub and stuffing his face with chicken noodle soup.

I’m not as involved with the money world as Jordan Belfort was, so I’m not too familiar with bitcoins, but seeing how the movie would execute them is intriguing how Rick learns about the process from Rayford and how Ross establishes them on his site.

On the side, we see Rick and his wife Sandy (Katie Aselton) acknowledging their daughter’s learning disability, and struggling to place her in a better school. His undercover job causes him to miss an interview, which is why Edie didn’t get accepted. And it’s not just that, but also his wife and agency criticizes him for the choices he made on his previous assignment in Puerto Rico. He has to bend the rules a bit in order to keep his family on track.

“Silk Road” is not always understandable, because of how the agent and site creator handle their criminal activities, but it is riveting when we see how writer/director Tiller Russell guides Clarke and Robinson in those roles with strong ambitions. And the subplots help keep the main story in check, because they both have respective lives, with spouses who have their issues with them. It sound obligatory, I know, but they’re quite essential in order to not let the money game confuse us.

When you see such talented actors using big words and smart creativity to tell a true story (and the movie admits certain elements were embellished), you can tell you’re in for a likable movie.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

On Demand Tomorrow

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