Max S. reveals how he built a drug empire from his childhood bedroom in this story that inspired the series "How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)."
If you thought Netflix’s How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast) seemed too crazy to be true, allow us to blow your minds a little more. German teen Maximilian Schmidt gained infamy after he was arrested for having sold some $4.1 million euros worth of drugs from his childhood bedroom. Shiny_Flakes: The Teenage Drug Lord, now streaming on Netflix, puts a face to the name and takes a deep dive into how this then 19-year-old’s drug empire got its start.
The Gist: Maximilian Schmidt was just 19 years old when he realized there was some serious money to be made online selling drugs. You didn’t have to wait around in a park for some shady drop, or coordinate a local delivery; just as easily as shopping for shoes online, you could add your drug of choice to your cart and have it on your doorstep faster than an Amazon Prime order. Through online connections, he joined forces with a supplier and soon was running a full-fledged business out of his childhood bedroom, portioning out orders of marijuana, LSD, meth, cocaine, and prescription drugs, just to name a few. It only took a couple months for things to really take off, and he did it all mailing his packages through the postal service and accepting payment in Bitcoin.
While things went smoothly for a while, it wasn’t long before Maximilian hit a few bumps in the road; some packages were intercepted, suppliers were arrested, and he got sloppy. The baby-faced drug lord was tried as a minor and sentenced to seven years in juvenile prison due to this “emotional immaturity”, and is now enjoying his freedom – even if he claims he doesn’t have “a cent” of the $4.1 million euros he made during his time selling drugs online.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Shiny_Flakes: The Teenage Drug Lord might remind you a little bit of other docs like The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, Dirty Money, as well as My Scientology Movie with the reenactments. It also might bring to mind The Social Network, in that it follows a cocky young guy who does something pretty remarkable behind a computer screen.
Memorable Dialogue: Maximilian says something early on in the documentary that I think just about sums up his ego and attitude towards this whole thing: “Lots of people who are good with tech will say, ‘Okay, with a bit of thought and effort, I could have maybe done the same thing’. But the difference is, either you do it or you don’t.”
Our Take: Thanks to the incredible story at its core, Shiny_Flakes: The Teenage Drug Lord is basically set up for success. A lonely, antisocial teen takes to the internet to create a glossy virtual storefront for selling drugs and makes millions? Come on. It sells itself, but thanks to some really compelling filmmaking choices on the part of director Eva Müller, Shiny_Flakes becomes more than just a retelling of a fascinating case. The main’s strongest weapon is Maximilian Schmidt himself, a charming, baby-faced blond who has no remorse whatsoever about what he did (and might have even done it again, even after spending some 4 1/2 years in prison).
Reenactments are often cheesy, but placing Max in a model of the bedroom where he committed alllll those crimes and having him start at the beginning in his own words is incredibly engaging storytelling. Even during the film’s slower sequences as Max gets things started and spends a lot of time in online chats, it’s hard to look away; we might know where things are going, but that doesn’t make what’s about to unfold any less exciting. My mouth fell open on several occasions, and I couldn’t help but let out a laugh here and there while Max smirked his cocky smirk and we heard from the befuddled, annoyed officials who can’t get over his attitude. All of this makes for some genuinely great entertainment, but I did find myself wishing Shiny_Flakes had taken a moment to examine Max’s privilege; I can picture few other cases in which a man in his early 20’s would have been treated with such leniency by the courts. (But when you’re a young white man with “emotional immaturity”, I supposed that being tried as an adult is off the table).
Despite its issues with looking at the bigger picture, Shiny_Flakes: The Teenage Drug Lord is undeniably watchable. Thanks to its captivating (if somewhat snarky) subject and some creative filmmaking choices, the documentary easily earns its place among the most intriguing nonfiction titles that have hit Netflix this year.