Review: ‘Kid Cannabis’ shows high and low life of a pot dealer

The poster image for "Kid Cannabis."

Another get-rich-quick scheme goes awry in the energetic and involving “Kid Cannabis,” based on the true story of young Nate Norman, who briefly was a kind of Jordan Belfort of weed.

The film, which begins in 2005, finds high school dropout and pizza-delivering pothead Norman (Jonathan Daniel Brown) living with his working-class single mom (Amanda Tapping) and kid brother (Mark Hills) in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. But one day, he realizes a way out of his family’s economic dead end: smuggling pot across the nearby Canadian border and selling it in his scenic hometown of haves and have-nots.

With the help of best bud Topher (Kenny Wormald), a specialty pot grower (John C. McGinley), a mysterious Israeli drug dealer (Ron Perlman, excellent) and a ragtag crew of townies, the enterprising Norman shrewdly — sometimes luckily — eludes lawmen and other obstacles to build an efficient, massively profitable weed-running business. The pudgy, bespectacled Norman is soon swept up in a whirlwind of hot chicks, abundant drugs, wild parties and ritzy purchases all while infuriating his chief competitor, an obnoxious, over-privileged, 20-year-old fellow drug trader (Aaron Yoo).

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To say no good will come from any of this is hardly a spoiler. But how Norman and his gang learn the ropes, work the game and earn their fleeting, if nerve-wracking moment in the sun proves an enjoyable, well-crafted ride in the hands of writer-director John Stockwell. (His script was inspired by a Rolling Stone article by Mark Binelli.)

Despite Brown’s deft portrayal, Norman, who’s serving a 12-year prison sentence, is hardly seen as the most sympathetic character. He’s by turns wormy, cocky and too smart for the room (his dialogue can be overly glib), despite a certain sense of loyalty. Still, Norman’s a vivid reminder of how our nation’s economic deck is often stacked against the little guy and the insane lengths some feel they must go to secure a winning hand.

“Kid Cannabis.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. At AMC Universal CityWalk Stadium 19; Arena Cinemas, Hollywood.