A university researcher is fired because of the cuts to university. To earn a living he decides to produce drugs recruiting his former colleagues, who despite their skills are living at the margins of society.
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A chemist, university researcher barely earning a living, is fired. After meeting a student of his, he learns the street value of drugs. He then designs a "non-illegal" drug and starts selling it with a group of friends, PhD holders working menial jobs and underpaid. Things get complicated when they earn too much money, get noticed, and their business is frowned-upon by a big drug dealer named "Murena"...Written by
The Italian equivalent of Breaking Bad is not surprisingly somewhat more light-hearted and funny, the film's popular success seeing it nominated for 10 David Di Donatello awards. Smetto Quando Voglio (I Can Quit Anytime I Want) stars Edoardo Leo as Pietro, a professor of molecular biology who is finding that his work is not really being valued at the college he teaches. He has a terrific new research thesis, potentially Nobel prize winning material, but no-one even understands it, much less respects his work.
More importantly, as far as his wife is concerned, all his research doesn't pay the mounting bills, so Pietro hasn't the heart to tell her that he is in danger of losing his job. Even the private tutoring isn't paying, his students preferring to spend huge amounts of money on recreational drugs; expensive drugs that are cheap to make. Bing! Cheap and easy to make for a professor in molecular biology, particularly one who has just developed a new theoretical program that can be tweaked to be a psychotropic substance that isn't on the list of illegal substances because it doesn't exist yet.
Gathering the best minds of academia behind it - all former colleagues of Pietro who have been left struggling in badly paid manual labour jobs - not only is it going to be the best drug ever, it's going to be the best organised operation ever. As long as they can keep from attracting the attentions of the local mafia, as long as Pietro's wife doesn't find out what he is doing and as long as all the money and hookers that come as part of the package don't impinge on the success of their operation. Obviously that's exactly what happens, but luckily they can give it up anytime they want...
Smetto Quando Voglio succeeds partly because it has a basis in the reality that reflects the problems of funding and the value given to the academic professions, and the difficulty it has competing when students have other 'outside interests', but it mainly works because it is quite funny. It's largely a situational comedy, the main joke being the idea of a bunch of eggheads including an archaeologist, a cultural anthropologist, an economist and a molecular biologist, having to apply their learning to being petrol pump attendants or a dishwasher in a restaurant kitchen, and then becoming drug kingpins who rob pharmacies with guns from the Napoleonic wars.
The humour is light-hearted then, and there's nothing too flash about the script or the direction, although the high-saturation luminous colour scheme does give the film a nice contemporary feel that just makes the drug-running professors look even more out of place in the criminal underworld. It's the performances that keep it running, headed up by Edoardo Leo, who would go on to direct his own version of an unlikely team setting themselves up in business against the mob in Noi e la Giulia in 2015.
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