Cocaine Cowboys

"Bad"

Cocaine Cowboys Review


It's just possible that, some day, America's Most Wanted will make itself a feature-length episode on some larger, multi-criminal subject and release it in theaters. However unlikely and unappetizing that scenario is, it would still end up being vastly more interesting than Billy Corben's documentary Cocaine Cowboys. Although the raw material is here for fascinating viewing -- following, as it does, Miami's epochal shift during the 1980s from sleepy southern burg into ultra-violent shooting gallery for drug cartels -- Corben manages to turn it all into tone-deaf mush.

The story of how the Uzi-wielding cocaine cowboys took Miami by storm obviously has plenty of traction -- how else to explain the strange popularity of the ludicrous Scarface or plasticine Miami Vice? -- but the fictional representations of the era have become so iconic and ingrained in people's minds that it's possible nobody's interested in the real story. In other words: among the real-life enactors of the Miami drug wars, as captured by Corben's camera at stultifying length here, are no Tony Montanas, not a one.

Eschewing the authorial voice, Corben opts instead for the montage effect, burying the viewers under an avalanche of TV news footage from the era, detailing the horrific public shootouts (including one involving machine guns at a crowded mall) which erupted out of nowhere at the time. The effect is not revelatory so much as it is enervating: After a time a good part of the film blurs into one long and grainy sequence of body bags and seized contraband.

Greater dramatic potential is hinted at in the interviews the filmmakers conducted with some of the Miami big-timers; unfortunately, while the access is impressive, the subjects are allowed to ramble at self-congratulatory length, shedding little light on the bigger picture. More skilled interviewers or at least a more competent editing scheme could have teased more gripping material out of the likes of Mafioso smuggler Jon Roberts and the dead-eyed Chicago gunsel Jorge "Rivi" Ayala, but such is sadly not the case. The filmmakers were so enamored of the flash and drama of their subject (going so far as to bring in Miami Vice theme-composer Jan Hammer to contribute a horrendously synthetic score) that they never bothered to dig beneath the surface of what was a cultural shift along the lines of that which, several decades prior, had changed Chicago from a stolid industrial capital into a gangsters' shooting gallery. What was needed was the Frontline approach; what is provided, sadly, is Brian de Palma Lite.

Aka City Made of Snow.



Cocaine Cowboys

Facts and Figures

Run time: 118 mins

In Theaters: Friday 23rd November 2007

Box Office Worldwide: $163 thousand

Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures

Production compaines: Rakontur, Magnolia Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 15

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Billy Corben

Producer: Alfred Spellman, Billy Corben, David Cypkin, Bruno del Granado

Starring: Jon Roberts as Himself, Jorge Ayala as Himself, Mickey Munday as Himself, Toni Mooney as Herself, Nelson Andreu as Himself, Al Sunshine as Himself

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