The title of this post does not refer to Die Hard IV, which looks fucktarded.
I’m talking about Cocaine Cowboys — a documentary chronicling the meteoric rise and grisly fall of nose-candy entrepreneurs in Southern Florida during the late 1970s-early-’80s.
And dig: Jan Hammer provides the original music for the film!
At two hours, CC is pretty long, but it never failed to hold my interest. A marvel of editing, the movie tells its tale without the benefit of a voice-over. The narrative is constructed through contemporary interviews, archival footage from news reports and crime photos. The players offer their own story, and the media does the rest.
The first half of the movie concerns two regular Joes who made scads of money (and I’m talking the gross domestic product of Lichtenstein here) on the smuggling side. Neither of ‘em were cokeheads — they actually got their start pulling in marijuana from South American sources, before being drawn into the increasingly lucrative powder biz. Their job was to fly the stuff directly from the Columbian cartels; a dangerous proposition, to be sure. But these gents had transportation down to a science, and they had little to worry about besides which multi-million dollar property they were gonna buy next. For a while, that is.
A curious thing happened to the Miami economy in these years: numerous shell banks popped up for the sole purposes of laundering drug money, of which there was no shortage. Retail business also profited enormously, with Rolls Royce dealerships, jewelers and furriers appearing seemingly overnight. It wasn’t uncommon for a player to have several (and I mean, like, seven to ten) expensive cars, all retrofitted like in Scarface. Construction boomed; most of the skyscrapers and resorts in the city are said to have been built with illicit capital.
Things were going swimmingly in this summery no-man’s land until the Cubans and Colombians started beefing. Then it got ugly real fuckin’ fast.
Cocaine Cowboys certainly doesn’t shy away from carnage, meaning it’s not for the squeamish. If seeing bodies mutilated by heavy machine gun fire turns your stomach, you should probably skip it.
It’s hard to believe that any of this shit took place in the United States. The streets of Baltimore portrayed in The Wire actually look safer, and that’s fiction. Well, mostly, anyway.
Mobster movies have conditioned us to the violent extravagances of the Italian-American mafia. Those guys are like cuddly kittehs compared to the Colombians, who have no reservations about killing entire families (including young children) to send a message. At the top of this terrible food chain sits Griselda Blanco, aka The Godmother. More than two hundred murders were carried out at her bequest. A sequel to Cocaine Cowboys, centering solely on Blanco, is due this summer.
I usually don’t side with Federal Law Enforcement on drug policy, but in this case, something obviously had to be done. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say George H.W. Bush and his DEA shock troopers took care of business.
Now Miami is once again safe for old people, rich college kids and D-list celebrities. Sigh. I guess we’ll always have Vice City.