After watching this documentary, Judge Victor Valdivia was asked if he remembers the '80s. That's a very good question. He'll get back to you on that.
This is the true story of the cocaine queen.
Maybe back in 2006, when the first Cocaine Cowboys was released, it was possible to argue that it filled a need. Though it wasn't great, or even all that good, at least there really weren't many DVDs around then to detail the stories and lives of big-time drug dealers.
Now, in 2008, Cocaine Cowboys is old-hat. What with American Gangster on BET, Gangland on the History Channel, and any number of drug and gang shows on the National Geographic channel, any viewer looking for true crime has a multitude of choices. In order to stand out, Cocaine Cowboys 2 would really need to up the ante and deliver some real uncut (if you'll pardon the expression) sleaze and violence. Instead, this film is even weaker than the first. It's a shoddy and dull documentary that isn't even good, unlike the first film, for some wrongheaded cheap thrills. The storytelling is muddled, the reenactments are cheesy, and the interviewees are, apart from one or two, a snooze.
Cocaine Cowboys 2 is meant to tell the story of Griselda Blanco, a Colombian immigrant who became one of the most feared drug titans of the last three decades and was so powerful and ruthless that even Pablo Escobar looked up to her. Unfortunately, instead of simply telling her story, the film is structured as the story of Oakland crack dealer Charles Cosby, who was, for a few years in the '90s, Blanco's partner and lover. This proves to be a colossal mistake. Though director Billy Corben and producer David Cypkin insist, throughout the commentary and in the "making of" featurette, that he's a compelling figure, he's as generic as any drug dealer you're likely to scrape off the floor at a sleazy nightclub. He has all the charisma of a can of dry paint and his inarticulate mumbling is painful to listen to. The first 15 minutes, in which Cosby tells the story of how he grew up and became a drug dealer, are stupefyingly boring. Most viewers will be tempted to pop the disc out of the player and trade it in for a used copy of Miami Vice, even if they already own a used copy of Miami Vice.
Once he starts telling Blanco's story, Cocaine Cowboys 2 picks up somewhat, but having Cosby tell the story is still an unnecessarily convoluted format. Because the film uses his retelling of her memories, and because he's such an uninvolving speaker, it sometimes gets very hard to follow exactly what's going on. How did she become the biggest drug dealer on the East Coast? Why did so many other dealers, like Escobar and Carlos Lehder, admire her so much? You won't know even after watching this film. To fill in the story, Cocaine Cowboys 2 also has interviews with other sources as well as some reenactments, some with the participants and others done in animation. The live reenactments, such as one hilariously misguided moment when Cosby points a gun to the camera, are embarrassingly awful. The animation, which usually depicts people being brutalized and murdered, ranges from tacky to tasteless. Either way, you'll regret watching.
To be fair, Cocaine Cowboys 2 isn't entirely without merit. A couple of interviewees do supply some memorable moments. Jorge "Rivi" Ayala, who appeared in the first film, returns here to add more stories about Blanco. He's not the liveliest talker, but when he casually mentions how he distrusted Cosby because he has never liked black people, he at least gives the film a much need shot of danger. When Miami police officer Al Singleton rails against Ayala and a couple of secretaries in the Miami D.A.'s office, who were involved in a sex scandal, his anger at least feels genuine, unlike the contrived posing of Cosby and his cronies. The film also does a reasonable job in outlining Blanco's hare-brained scheme to kidnap a world-famous celebrity in order to bargain for her freedom. Nonetheless, these high points are few and far between. Even hardcore fans of the drug-crime genre would do better with one of the series mentioned above.
The anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer is decent. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, on the other hand, is pointless, as most of the film consists of interviews. The only times the surrounds are used are during the (really terrible) hip-hop songs that open and close the film. The disc is stuffed to the gills with extras, but none of them are actually useful. The commentary, by Corben and Cypkin, has some interesting information, but is so self-congratulatory as to be insufferable. Also included is a "Behind the Scenes" featurette (15:19), which, if anything, is even worse, as it's all self-puffery. There are deleted scenes (9:10), some of which are horrifically gruesome, but none of which are essential. Rounding out the disc is the film's trailer (2:20) and some photo and art galleries. Nothing, in short, to make Cocaine Cowboys 2 worth buying. Save your money, and watch one of the many true-crime shows on TV instead.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
• The Making of Cocaine Cowboys 2
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