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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Achieves Everything It Sets Out To
Recently I watched (and reviewed) How To Make Money Selling Drugs. In that case a deliberately provocative title was used merely as an attempt to attract a wider audience for what was in reality a polemical piece against the failed policy of prohibition.

By contrast, I strongly suspect this film would be far more useful to anyone genuinely seeking instruction...
Published 6 months ago by Theo

versus
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Snow time
It's flashback time to Miami in the late Seventies where Jon Roberts and Mickey Munday, both amazingly successful drug runners, relate the story of how they flew in tons of the white stuff from Columbia and became richer than either ever imagined. Their talking heads and others fill out the first hour. Half of hour two concerns mayhem in Miami with various drug folk...
Published on 20 Jan 2008 by Robin Benson


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Achieves Everything It Sets Out To, 10 Feb 2014
By 
Theo (Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Cocaine Cowboys [DVD] (DVD)
Recently I watched (and reviewed) How To Make Money Selling Drugs. In that case a deliberately provocative title was used merely as an attempt to attract a wider audience for what was in reality a polemical piece against the failed policy of prohibition.

By contrast, I strongly suspect this film would be far more useful to anyone genuinely seeking instruction in such matters. It documents what went on inside the Miami drug trade in exquisite and unflinching detail - at least during the "Miami Vice" era of the 1970's through to about the mid 80's. The fast pace of the film not only makes for great storytelling: it also means an incredible amount of information is packed into a relatively short time-frame. As a result, this is a work that easily withstands repeated viewing. Indeed, it virtually demands it.

Cocaine Cowboys has been criticized as being exploitative, and as lacking in real analysis of the wider social impacts. Surprisingly, such criticisms appear even in the product description here on Amazon. Personally, I don't think either criticism is fair. It is true that parents need to be aware that the R rating is there for a reason. Many extremely brutal still-shots in particular appear in this film. It does not skimp on the graphic reality of what happens when you shoot and kill people. But for the adult audience for which it is intended, the film is no more gruesome than it needs to be to honestly portray the events with which it is concerned. Nor more redolent with excess than to portray with equal honesty the milieu in which they occurred.

As for the lack of analysis, that's like criticizing a horse for not being a camel. This is a documentary of the old school: it just tells you its story in as neutral a way as possible, and leaves you to form your own judgements. Yes, it is sensational to watch. But don't let that fool you. In its own way this is an extremely rigorous example of the documentary filmmaker's craft.

None of which is to say that its creators aren't perfectly aware of the pop cultural context of their work. Of course they are! As a kind of knowing wink to the audience, Jan Hammer, famous for providing the music for Miami Vice, also provides the music for this work. He does a great job, too. His music alludes skilfully to the cocaine cowboys era without ever coming across as merely dated or self-referential. I think it would work perfectly well as straight background music even for those oblivious to the irony of his being chosen for this film.

Finally, I would add that this is one case where I would definitely recommend buying the DVD. The generous extras add an enormous amount of additional information, and even include a short bonus documentary "Hustlin' With The Godmother: The Charles Crosby Story". This picks up the life of the "Godmother" (Griselda Blanco) where the main feature leaves off.

In the end, this is a film that enthralls and informs, but does not judge. It just lays everything out for us, as dispassionately as possible. What we make of it all is up to us.

If I myself were to draw any inferences from what I have been shown, they would simply be these:

I am quite certain that the flow of product continues unabated. It's just that by the time the 80's drew to a close, those at the top of the food chain had learned that what works well in Columbia does not work in the US. Daily machine-gun battles in the streets and malls of Miami are not good for business.

And these people are powerful enough to enforce their interests.

Theo.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Never forgive, Never forget" (the drug dealing code of honour)., 1 Feb 2008
By 
b4-its-2-l8 (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cocaine Cowboys [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a first class documentary with an easy to follow style which flows naturally and time passes quickly. I'm not a fan of gangster films and I hate violence so I was a little unsure about this documentary but it had me hooked from early on. There is an endless amount of eye-opening and eye-popping information. I became engrossed and I don't even like drugs!

Before seeing this, I recently saw the Panorama programme with Alex James, (the base player with Blur who claimed he blew a 1 million on cocaine), as it followed him on trip around Colombia to see the realities and hidden hardships this drug has caused, and I became interested to know more.

Cocaine Cowboys - the documentary's title - comes from the tagline that was given to the feuding Cuban and primarily Colombian drugs dealers shooting it out on the streets and houses of 1970s to 1980s Miami which made the actions of the Chicago gangsters of the Prohibition era look fairly subdued by comparison.

The film opens with coverage of an execution-style shooting in broad daylight in a liquor store in Miami '79 and asks where will the Cocaine Cowboys strike next? The next of an hour back tracks in time for us to understand how we got to this stage and does so by concentrating on testimonies of 2 of the central characters of the US cocaine trade; Jon Roberts who distributed over $2 Billion of cocaine for the Medellin Cartels and Mickey Mundey who smuggled over 38 tons of cocaine from Colombia to USA

Both come across as articulate, easy going, even charming people who could've been successful businessmen in any field if fate had been different. Roberts' network was immense reaching through to all levels of the feted of society (the only ones who could afford the drug), whilst Mundey's operational nous was so highly tuned they were able to operate for years without any detection or intervention from the authorities - a bit like a brilliant but warped Bond villain.

But the emphasis all changes with the liquor store murders in '79 and the film starts to reveal the other side of the story, the human cost from the emerging power struggles that were beginning to spiral out of control. Over a 15 year period the average number of cocaine homicides rocketed from 1 per annum to 2 per week.

The film then takes narration from it's 3rd main character, Jorge 'Rivi' Ayala who grew to become the head enforcer of La Madrina (the Godmother) an incredibly despotic and ruthless dealer who controlled the drug trade through fear.

The death tolls of shoot-outs got so bad and so frequent that the media stopped being interested in reporting only double or even triple-murders! They would concentrate on multiple homicides of 5 or 6 or more. Yet no matter how bad the death tolls got, nobody stopped buying cocaine, the demand for it kept growing higher, and kept outstripping supply.

This film shows how money ruined morality; banks, the police, mayors - there was no one that wasn't touched, and if they weren't directly involved in the drug trade they conveniently didn't ask questions like; "why are you buying a $1 million dollar airplane with cash?"

This film covers so much more than I ever imagined, you won't need cocaine to blow your mind, this documentary will do the same thing! Yet it never judges people's actions it just presents them. Nor does it get too gory, there are some strong photos which are shown in context but the camera never lingers.

There are only a few documentaries that have made a big impact on me and this one stands up there with the best of them. The deleted scenes and special featurette are worth watching also for extra insight.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gritty documentary, 13 May 2013
By 
N. Dodd (Beaconsfield, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cocaine Cowboys [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A dark documentary about 70s and 80s cocaine dealers in Miami. A well-researched and interesting insight. This is not usually my kind of film at all, but it kept me entertained and informed throughout. Recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Documentary, 27 Jun 2008
By 
K. Jamison (Co. Down, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cocaine Cowboys [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As this documentary opened, familiar musak poured out of the speakers, whipping me back to 'Miami Vice'... Jan Hammer composed the music, so that explains it. The cheesy 80's music is the only downside to this fascinating documentary of how cocaine dealers established a beach head in Miami from where they supplied their product. With the boom of the 80's and vast quantities of disposable income available, the dealers cleaned up and how. With the richest and most influential people addicted, it was only to be expected that turf wars would begin to consolidate profits and the dealer gangs begin to take pot-shots at one another.

Cutting edge and barring no holds, this is a raw insight into the drugs trade in Miami with multiple interviewees giving their personal views of what was happening and where it was all heading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping stuff, 27 Jun 2008
By 
Yankeeeee (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cocaine Cowboys [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having just got back from Miami I thought I would finally get round to watching this - and so glad I did! The first couple of minutes are a bit cheesy but after that its enthralling and a well-informed documentary. The news reports and photos from some of the scenes are quite shocking. The documentary is very informative and is very watchable ... am now ordering volume 2 :-)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Really, very, very shocking, 21 April 2008
By 
Mr. Hm Bennett "howardbennett3" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cocaine Cowboys [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you are going to rent/buy this film I would be careful in this review area as there are a few spoilers in some of the reviews.

Let's put it this simply; if you like documentaries, have a strong stomach and don't get too depressed by seeing 'the evil that men do' at quite close quarters, you will be fascinated and very entertained by this movie.

It is a simple history of the effects of the trade in the glamourous people's drug over a 20-30 year period on various strata of society.

What really fascinates are the interviews with some very bad people (murderers etc) who come across as reasonable even charming as they very volubly describe some of their wrongdoings. This is the aspect of the film that fascinated me and kept my attention although it was almost like watching a snuff movie and left me with a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

Nevertheless, it was entertainment.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and eye-opening production, 18 April 2008
By 
Rendition (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cocaine Cowboys [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was initially a bit worried about this DVD. Would it be over-dramatic with fake voice-overs? Try to emulate the previous successes of the cool Michael Moore blockbusters or fail to concentrate on facts like the pretty boring "An Inconvenient Truth".

I am pleased to say that this was a balanced and interesting take on asubject which scares most people. Although the most charismatic characters were inevitably the bad guys, this did not detract from the mayhem and crime wave these people create.

You think you know what's going on because you once watched "Miami Vice". Well, now you have the opportunity to see what is really happening.

I have no hesitation in recommending this one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Hard Hitting Reflection Of The Cocaine Epidemic In Miami., 20 Mar 2008
By 
Astore Stargazer (Lancashire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cocaine Cowboys [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
During the 1970's and 1980's the Medalin cartel flooded Florida and Miami with almost endless amounts of cocaine. Here is the story of the rise and susbsequent fall of the many cocaine dealers all trying to carve out a piece of territory for themselves. Where drugs are other crimes usually follow, murder, prostitution just to name two but with murder being the one that this documentery focuses on.

The research for this documentary is excellent, the eye witness accounts are interesting and have given a really good picture on just what things was like during these times. Im not sure if this is something I would be happy paying for but it does make good viewing and it is a bit of an eye opener not so much for me because I have read books on the subject but my girlfriend found it extremely shocking at times.

A lot of effort has gone into this docu-film and it shows, it has not so serious tone to it in the beginning. But that just gently sucks you into what is about to come and there are some really hard hitting and gritty facts I guess the narrator just wanted to tone down the horror with a gentle approach which does work well in contrast to the content of the DVD. All in all a very good documentary even if this sort of thing is not your usual brand of entertainment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, 18 Mar 2008
By 
Mr. Colin Rankin "Colin Rankin" (Braintree, essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cocaine Cowboys [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Possibly the best documentary I have ever seen.
Miami moved from an old people's retirement resort to the home of the cocaine business within a few years.
This documentary explains just how.
It's stacatto presentation is powerful and direct.No interviewers, just interviewees....like John Roberts,Mickey Munday and the astonishing and chilling Jorge 'Riva' Ayala.
How easy it was for Roberts and Munday to earn millions from this 'business' is vividly portrayed but it is the 'Riva' sessions that are so frightening.....a man who is a confessed assasin for the 'Black Widow',Griselda Blanco.
I could go on and on about this but suffice it to say that it is a long documentary that grows more and more powerful...obvious connections to Brian De Palma's film Scarface....which by the evidence of this,did not go far enough.
That the USA had to put itself on a 'war-footing' to combat this says it all.
Simply stunning.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The truth about the richest city in Eighties America, 4 Mar 2008
By 
C. Verspeak "f*" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cocaine Cowboys [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an excellent documentary about the birth of cocaine in Eighties Miami and the effects of the drugs boom on that city.

The title refers to the mainly Columbian and Cuban gangsters whose feud over territory and 'honour' exploded onto the streets of Miami. Most of the film is however told from the point of view of the Americans who got insanely rich, amazingly quickly once they abandoned trafficking marijuana and began to smuggle coke into the States.

I've read the stories of drug-smugglers before, but nothing compares to the scale of operations involved transporting cocaine from South America to the US. Pilots earning millions each flight, buying planes and cars for cash, burying millions in back gardens, swamps and even horse feedbags.

The interviewees for the film are all candid and lucid. The only gripe there is one of them, a Columbian assassin now in jail, has quite a thick accent and could really have done with being subtitled. All of them have many fascinating stories though.

The film also touches on what for me is one of the most interesting aspects of the whole affair - the fact that Miami only exists today in its glossy and generally fashionable state because of the vast amounts of drug money banked there. In one year, the Miami Federal Reserve Bank had more surplus cash deposited in it than the rest of the US Federal Reserve Banks added together.

Some nice extras (the story of the man who became the lover of Miami's 'Godmother' of crime is a good one) make for more interesting viewing.

I greatly enjoyed this film and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.
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