Cocaine Cowboys (2006)

Genres - History, Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Law & Crime, Biography, Social Issues, Film & Television History  |   Release Date - Oct 27, 2006 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Donald Guarisco

Miami's drug-fueled crime wave of the 1970s and early 1980s has been transformed into a compelling narrative with this hard-hitting documentary. Cocaine Cowboys succeeds where many a drug-themed feature film fails because it goes to the story's sources and lets them lay out every detail of what happened, warts and all. It also helps that the participants are natural storytellers: Jon Roberts and Mickey Munday lay out how they built Miami's drug empire with a captivating mix of insider details and dark humor while Jorge Ayala Blanco's deadpan tales of drug-motivated killings are as chilling as they are casually told. These tales of lawlessness are balanced by insightful commentary from the policemen and reporters that covered this crime wave, which adds an additional layer of depth to the proceedings. The film is also effectively directed by Billy Corben, who keeps the film's interview-driven narrative from lapsing into "talking heads" monotony by setting the story to a fast-edited barrage of animated photos, video, and film footage of the era. The cinematic feel is further enhanced by a stylish rock music score by Jan Hammer that echoes his famous work on the Miami Vice television series. In short, Cocaine Cowboys is sometimes gruesome, sometimes darkly funny, and always fascinating.