Stoner Movie Review: Nick Robinson Plays Ross Ulbricht in 'Silk Road'

Nick Robinson portrays Ross Ulbricht in "Silk Road."

Ross Ulbricht wanted to change the world. The creator of the Silk Road website is the subject of the Silk Road biopic directed by Tiller Russell. Ulbricht is played by Nick Robinson.

"Silk Road" movie poster

For several years before it was shut down, Silk Road allowed consumers to buy drugs on the Internet anonymously using Bitcoin.

"This is America," Ulbricht says in the movie. "If you want to smoke a bowl, snort a line or pop a pill, that's your prerogative. I'm using the Internet as an instrument of liberty."

The Silk Road is an ancient trade route that linked China with the West.

But as the website grows in leaps and bounds, law enforcement begins to take notice. Embattled DEA agent Rick Bowden (James Clarke) is on the case. He's a dirty narc who's been reassigned to the cyber crimes unit. Considered a dinosaur for his old-school tactics (torture, for example), Bowden aims to prove them wrong. With the help of his hacker friend Rayford (Darrell Britt-Gibson), they find Silk Road and start tracing it back to Ulbricht and his partner in Utah.

As they close in on him, Ulbricht's justifably paranoid, so much so that he puts a hit out on his Utah associate Curtis (Paul Walter Hauser). By this point Ulbricht's unwittingly communicating wth Bowden, who shows up in Utah and threatens Curtis allegedly on Ulbricht's behalf.

Predictably, Ulbricht's girlfriend Kim (Jennifer Yun) and best friend Chris (Jimmi Simpson) desert him as the dragnet closes in. 

Despite his good intentions - "Silk Road is already making an impact on the War on Drugs by expanding peoples' access to controlled substances,"  he boasts - Ulbricht doen't really care what people are buying and using. When Kim questions the sale of addictive drugs via the site, he shrugs. A Libertarian, Ulbricht believes people should be able to use whatever drug they prefer, no matter the possible negatve effects.

"This is America, If you want to smoke a bowl, snort a line or pop a pill, that's your prerogative."

Since this all happend from 2011 to 2013, it's fair to say Ulbricht was arrested and convicted for his crimes - money laundering, hacking and trafficking narcotics. However, he was never charged with murder. Ulbricht is currently serving a life sentence in a federal penitentary.

Though Ulbricht says he like drugs, none are used in the movie. However, there are many images of drugs like weed and mushrooms being sent in the mail.

"The War on Drugs is a farce," Ross Ulbricht declares in Silk Road. And he continues to pay for it. 

Silk Road is available via On Demand or DVD, and streaming outlets like Prime and Apple+.


Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.