2006, Movies

Cocaine Cowboys (2006, Billy Corben)

I have heard about this film from a number of people and wonder if we watched the same movie. This is a poorly made film that absolutely reeks of early digital technology – even if its release year of 2006 would suggest it wasn’t made with early digital technology. Why is it that so many people are okay with watching movies that look like they were assembled in somebody’s basement?

I get that the subject matter is compelling, I truly do. And they clearly did a lot of work as there are tons of interviews and tons of archival footage. But I have some major problems:

  • the editing and pacing is awful – sometimes the interviews feel like they are just running uninterrupted
  • the soundtrack is terrible – deliberately attempting to emulate Miami Vice? [Note: It was actually composed by the composer of Miami Vice‘s score, so yes, they were doing that.]
  • and even the title cards look like they were created on a computer that would have been felled by the Y2K bug.

This film is one of those documentaries that show how flawed the early promise of DIY digital was. This film got made independently. But it’s a miracle that it’s watchable a decade later, frankly.

Putting aside the technical issues, this story is told relatively succinctly for how long it is, but I have a distinct feeling that a perspective is missing. I don’t really know why I feel that way, I just do.

Anyway, this is only worth your time if you’re particularly interested in Miami or War on Drugs. There are far better movies out there about the latter.


  • Directed by Billy Corben
  • Produced by Alfred Spellman, Billy Corben, David Cypkin
  • Starring:
    • Jon Roberts
    • Mickey Munday
    • Jorge “Rivi” Ayala
  • Music by Jan Hammer
  • Cinematography by Armando Salas
  • Edited by Billy Corben, David Cypkin
  • Distributed by Magnolia Pictures
  • Release date: US April 26, 2006
  • Running time: 116 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

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