Cocaine Cowboys (18)

Film image

The ViewLondon Review

StarStarStarStarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner22/11/2007

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Gripping, fast-paced documentary, with a fascinating array of interviewees and aggressive direction by Billy Corben.

What's it all about?
Directed by Billy Corben (whose previous film was the highly controversial Raw Deal: A Question of Consent), Cocaine Cowboys tells the fascinating true story of how Columbian cocaine barons invaded Miami in the 1980s, bringing a level of violence that put Prohibition-era Chicago to shame. Ironically, the murders, the drug trade and the money all helped turn Miami into the city it is today.

Corben has assembled an impressive array of interviewees that includes cops, journalists, coroners and TV reporters. He also has lengthy interviews with three of the key figures: dealer and businessman Jon Roberts, trafficker and pilot Mickey Munday and paid assassin Jorge 'Rivi' Ayala, who gives his interviews from prison.

The Good
Corben shoots in a fast paced, frequently aggressive style that seems to have been based on the cocaine sequences in Goodfellas. Voiceover narration is provided by the interviewees themselves, while Corben rapidly cuts between them, using photographs, newsreel footage and filmed inserts (such as guns being fired or, most gratuitously, a pretty girl acting as a lookout) to illustrate what they're saying.

The story itself is extremely gripping, especially when vicious gangster Griselda 'La Madrina' Blanco appears on the scene and all-out war erupts between rival factions (the term Cocaine Cowboys was invented by the media after the initial spate of drug-related shootings). In addition, the interviewees are an extremely charismatic bunch, although Ayala's accent is almost indecipherable at times.

The Great
In addition to an amusingly ironic score by Miami Vice composer Jan Hammer, the film is also brimming with interesting details, such as Roberts dismissing the movie cliche of the drugs-for-cash exchange in a darkened underpass or revealing that they often used tow-trucks to drive around cars full of drugs because it allowed for deniability.

Worth seeing?
In short, Cocaine Cowboys would make an excellent double-bill with Ted Demme's Blow, which dealt with California rather than Miami. It's a well made, superbly directed documentary that tells a gripping tale. Recommended.

Film Trailer

Cocaine Cowboys (18)
Cocaine Cowboys has been reviewed by 1 users
01 Focus (15)

Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro

02 Selma (12A)

David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth

03 Far from the Madding Crowd (tbc)

Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaert...

04 Chappie (tbc)

Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley

05 A Most Violent Year (15)

Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

Content updated: 17/07/2018 07:11

Latest Film Reviews

Film of the Week

Foxcatcher (15)

Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum star in this real life inspired story of Olympic talent, fierce competition and murder.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films