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Cocaine Cowboys

A City Built On Cocaine, Pipedreams, and Blood

For those seeking quick fortune and glory in the 70s and 80s, there was arguably no place quite like Miami. With unguarded ports, contraband could easily be smuggled in from Colombia or Cuba and, in short order, turned over for a pretty penny. Previously a quiet retirement community, Miami would become a hotbed for cocaine peddling and unspeakable violence. The remarkable rise, fall, and rebirth of Miami is charted in Cocaine Cowboys.

In Cocaine Cowboys, director Billy Corben delves deep into the history of this sordid period interviewing a multitude of characters from some of the biggest drug traffickers from Miami to the most ruthless assassins who plugged countless in pursuit of advancing their drug fueled empire. What Corben reveals is astonishing.

Jon Pernell Roberts who provides a plethora of interviews throughout Cocaine Cowboys reveals just how lucrative the cocaine trade was with accounts of burying large bags of money in his backyard because there was nowhere else to put it. Roberts would peddle over $2 billion worth of cocaine for the Medellin drug cartel and would probably still be doing so today were it not for a close friend/associate dropping a dime on him.

Above and beyond exposing the fascinating characters who played a central role in launching the cocaine business in Miami, director Billy Corben spends ample time examining the social context that enabled the influx of marijuana, ecstasy, and cocaine into Miami and the resultant flood of cash that catalyzed the purchase of vast tracts of land, the opening of luxury car dealerships, and countless banks to handle the overwhelming amount of drug money.

Equally as compelling (if not disturbing), is Corben’s recounting of the extraordinary violence that took over Miami as the drug money began to draw numerous criminals and unsavory types into the area. Not since prohibition era Chicago had a city seen such violence. Cohen smartly includes numerous police enforcement officers in retelling the descent of this once sleepy, retirement community into a hotbed of crime and violence.

Cocaine Cowboys tells the story of Miami during the 70s/80s in a fascinating, disturbing, and enlightening manner. While few would view this period as something positive, there’s little question that Miami would not be the city it is today without the money generated during this period.

The echoes of Miami during this time period is still very much felt today as evidenced by Miami Vice (the television series and film), Brian DePalma’s Scarface, and the Grand Theft Auto videogame series. These cultural artifacts are highly glamorized, fictionalized, and dramatized portrayals of Miami. But, the true story as revealed in Cocaine Cowboys is no less entertaining than any of the aforementioned.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars