Cocaine Cowboys

by Alan Rapp on October 27, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

The year of the documentary continues with this enaging film on the 1980’s drug trade in Miami.  In a film that is sure to enrage law enforcement officials, Cocaine Cowboys takes a look back at the mind-boggling business of the cocaine trade that began in the late 70’s, became the template for Miami Vice,  and ended in brutality and murder.

Cocaine Cowboys
4 Stars

Ronald Reagan won’t like this film.  It examines both sides of the drug war in Miami during the late 70’s and 80’s and, while amditing to the horrific consequences of the situation, doesn’t condemn drugs.  Instead the documentary simply follows the events and the people involved, and looks at the good and bad effects the cocaine business left as a legacy in Miami.

The documentary, presented by director Billy Corben (Raw Deal: A Question of Consent), looks back at the once sleepy retirement town of Miami, and how some seemingly harmless white powder would change everything overnight.  Miami became the happening hot spot and the center of an annual $20 billion dollar franchise – cocaine.

It’s a tale of astronomical numbers and mind-boggling profit.  The cocaine business changed Miami from top to bottom as the wealth came pouring in, but with it came the cocaine, and later violence that would shock a nation.  The film features interviews with drug dealers, trafficers, and law enforcement officers engaged in ending what would become a bloody snapshot of American history.

It didn’t start out that way of course.  The tale presented here is a tale of wealth, luxurity and fun, that except for the prescence of one insane drug lord whose paranoia and need for violence brought attention and an end to an largely unaware public.

The film works as a historical perspective and as a character study as it interviews the men and methods behind the drug trade in Miami.  What begins as amusing tale as the drug dealers discuss the ease at which they worked, becomes stark and menacing with the unchecked violence that ended the period in a bloody mess.

I was lucky enough to see the documentary at FilmFest KC this year and would recommend it to all who can stomach the subject matter.  The documentary does include violent scenes and footage as well as some material that would be unsuitable for young children.  As a film that presents the drug trade with a balanced eye, it’s very educational and will keep you in suspense throughout its near two-hour running time.

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