Review of Cocaine Cowboys directed by Billy Corben
This documentary is the first of two documentaries dealing with the early days of the cocaine trade. I actually saw the Cocaine Cowboys II documentary first. That film led me to this one. The two films work together because they cover different time periods. The second film is a natural extension of the first and includes some of the same characters.
The first part of the film revolves around two entrepreneurs who see the cocaine and drug trade as a quick way to make a lot of money. Jon Roberts is the middleman between the supplier and the wholesaler. Mickey Monday handles the transportation side of the equation. Both men come across as reasonable and likable despite their lack of accountability for the many lives destroyed by the drugs they supplied. Neither of them acknowledges the moral implications of their deeds. They were in it for the money, and they both did extremely well.
Things took a turn for the worst when the various drug cartels started fighting amongst themselves and violence erupted in Miami, Florida where most of the cocaine trade in the U.S. originated.This is the point where the hired assassin Rivi is introduced. He too comes across as likable, if you can get past the fact that he is responsible for over thirty-plus deaths, including a child. He talks about killing people like you and I might talk about a round of golf.
The violence that Miami suffered at the hands of these "Cocaine Cowboys" is not that dissimilar to the violence going on in Mexico right now. That gives the film relevance even though this documentary was released three years ago.
Much of the violence that occurred in Miami in the late seventies and early eighties was directly tied to one individual – Griselda Blanco. Her story is told more fully in Cocaine Cowboys II. She is known as the godmother of cocaine. She is a ruthless murderer who due to an unfortunate set of circumstances served only a few years in prison and today remains a free woman.
Jon Roberts and Mickey Monday both spent time in prison. One could argue that they didn't spend enough time. Many of the users of the drugs they supplied are still in prison. The filmmakers never asked, but I'm guessing that both would make the same decisions if given the same set of circumstances. As for Rivi, he will spend the remainder of his days behind bars.
The DVD has an audio commentary. I recommend putting both of these films in your Que. Watch them on separate nights.