The true story of how Miami became the drug, murder and cash capital of the United States. Reloaded with never-before-seen footage, interviews, and stories told about Miami's Cocaine Wars, containing recently uncovered archival news footage.
I'm sure you've heard of the excellent documentary by Billy Corben called 'Cocaine Cowboys' that came out back in 2006, or at least I hope you have. If not, this exquisite documentary is all about the Miami cocaine scene in the 70s and 80s. If you've seen 'Scarface' with Al Pacino, then you now know what you can expect from film. Unfortunately, this has never been released on Blu-ray. But now it has! I guess to make up for lost time, Corben decided to give us a newer version of his original movie with an addition 36 minutes added, hence the 'Reloaded' title.
On the cover art, it says there is over sixty minutes of new material, which means he has replaced some of the original footage with newer footage and more archival footage. But with whichever version you have, this is the definitive one \until a new format comes out. 'Miami Vice' and 'Scarface' were definitely based on these stories and people, and Corben's 'Cocaine Cowboys' flawlessly details how a small and quiet South Florida town became one of the richest and most violent cities in the world through some extensive interviews with law enforcement, government agents, gang members, cartel bosses, lawyers, and many others.
There has not been nor do I think there ever will be a documentary as good as this one that focuses on the drug trade in Miami. This documentary even spawned a sequel of sorts called 'Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin' with the Godmother', which was released in 2008 and focuses on one of the people talked about in this film. I only hope that the sequel finds its way to Blu-ray in the near future following the success of this release.
With several hundred hours worth of interviews filmed and archival news footage from the 70s and 80s, Corben still has maintained its three-part style with this documentary, but he has added much more new content. The first part of the film dives into how the drugs were smuggled into Miami. The best interviewers here are Jon Pernell Roberts (a former drug dealer) and Mickey Munday (a former pilot), who at first started importing marijuana in to Miami, but moved to Cocaine, because it proved to be almost a thousand times more lucrative. The two men amongst others discuss the intricate details of how they went about bringing the drugs into Miami. They discuss the type of planes, the technology used, and how many people were involved in the successful trips to unload the precious cargo. Needless to say, Munday and Roberts became very rich very fast.
The second part covers how much the new drug trafficking affected Miami, financially speaking. As we have seen in movies like 'Scarface' or 'Blow' with Johnny Depp, there were mountains and mountains of cash to be had. Sometimes there was so much cash, they had to purchase houses, only to store the literal piles of money they had coming in daily. But one cannot have that amount of cash on hand and not have people asking questions. So the criminals decided to invest in real estate, open businesses, night clubs, car dealerships, and jewelry stores to launder their drug money.
Soon, many banks wanted to open up in Miami to get a piece of this drug money and at one time, the Federal Reserve in Miami had a cash surplus of $6 billion more dollars than any other Federal Reserve in the country combined. Much of Miami's skyline of great looking high-rise condos and clubs you see in music videos and in movies today are there because of drug money. During that period of time, Miami went though a big change and became one of the wealthiest cities in America as these notorious drug dealers laundered their money through opening big businesses and tourist attractions, many of which are still standing today.
The third and final part of the film focuses on the violence and corruption in Miami due to this drug trafficking. It was inevitable I guess, since you have ruthless criminals running rampant in the streets, trying to protect and gain more street turf to sell their drugs,but it was astounding to see just how many lawyers, police officers, and other law enforcement were bought, bribed, and told to look the other way in lieu of cash so that this drug boom could carry on. With this many corrupt police officers, the criminals had free reign to basically do what they wanted, thus making Miami the most violent city and even the murder capital of the United States for a while. Through television news reports and more interviews, you get a real and sick sense of just how brutal Miami was during this time period.
It was also interesting to see how some of these criminals would build these tall and large high-rise condos and purchase the top floors for themselves to not just enjoy the view, but to keep watch for police boats and airplanes that might be zeroing in on them. One of the more intense interviews is with Jorge 'Rivi' Ayala, who was the right-hand-man for Griselda Blanco, one of the Medellin Cartel's top bosses who was known for her sadistic nature and willingness to kill anyone and everyone that got in her way. In fact, the sequel that I mentioned above to this movie is based solely on her. Ayala's interview in conducted in prison and details some of the gruesome crimes that he and Blanco were responsible for, and just how much money they made during their reign.
'Cocaine Cowboys: Reloaded' is an intense and very informative documentary on how Miami became the city we know today. Some might say that because of these drug dealers, Miami succeeded financially and created one of the prettiest skylines in the States. No matter what your stance on drugs is, you can't argue that these gang members, cartel bosses, corrupt law enforcement, and other key players were responsible for the large amount of murder, death, and destruction in this beautiful city. This is one film you won't soon forget.
'Cocaine Cowboys: Reloaded' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This documentary is full of archival footage of old interviews, news stories on both digital video and 35 mm. So needless to say, there is not one particular look to the film, but that being said, the image is not what is most interesting here. It's the content. The VHS and 35mm footage never looks great and has quite a bit of damage.
The colors haven't been upgraded, but rather maintain their original awkward look from the 80s. The best looking portions of the film involve the newer interviews and the still photographs. These photo stills and newer interviews look very good with great detail and good color, although a lot of the photographs are in black and white. With so much old archival footage that hasn't been cleaned up, you're not going to get the most perfect and clear image, but Magnet has done as good a job as possible.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and it sounds very good. This being a documentary full of interviews and old news reports, the sound is focused mostly on the front center channel. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. There were no instances of any pops, cracks, or hissing, as they have all been cleaned up for this new digital release.
Don't worry, you'll get some ample sound from your rear and surround speakers as Jan Hammer provided an exceptionally good score. Funny thing is, Hammer wrote the music for the 'Miami Vice' TV series, which makes this all the more fitting, don't you think? The score packs a punch in this documentary and never drowns out the dialogue. There is a wide dynamic range here surprisingly with some bass kicking in from time to time. Great audio presentation.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 14 mins.) - Some short deleted scenes that give you a tease of just how much footage there is out there not put in this documentary. Each scene is worth watching.
'Cocaine Cowboys: Reloaded' is the ultimate documentary on the Miami drug scene in the 70 and 80s. These stories fueled 'Miami Vice' and 'Scarface'.You won't soon forget this film and it will probably spark debate on the current drug laws that are in place now. The video and audio presentations are great for what they are, and the deleted scenes are worth watching. I only wish there was more footage to watch. This release comes highly recommended!