Cocaine Cowboys: Reloaded (2011) – A Review


A review of the 2011 documentary Cocaine Cowboys: Reloaded about the violent drug trade in Miami, Florida during the 1980s

Cocaine Cowboys Reloaded documentary

A documentary film that explores the dramatic effects from the surge of cocaine that dominated Miami, Florida throughout the late 1970’s and 1980’s. The drug creates an escalation of violence never before seen in America. The best comparison one person makes is to Chicago during prohibition.

The cocaine trade creates powerful criminals, an unyielding epidemic of crime, vast sums of money changing hands with an overwhelmed police force trying to maintain order in the chaos that has overtaken the city.

Directed by Billy Corben this documentary film explores all the aspects during that time period when cocaine was the centerpiece of Miami, Florida. There is plenty of ugliness and the film doesn’t shy away from showing what kind of twisted and high level of violence the drug brought to the city. But oddly it also doesn’t neglect to share the stories of the obscene level of wealth brought to the ones who profited from it, the lifestyles they enjoyed and the impact it all had on the city.

It finds an effective balance between the two sides. It doesn’t glamorize this period of time or its participants, but also doesn’t get on a high horse and preachy.

Cocaine Cowboys Miami drug documentary 2006I had heard of this documentary but never had seen it when I happened upon it on Showtime. I thought I would give it a shot and I’m so glad I did. Within ten minutes I was hooked in. The film moves at a very fast pace style using archival footage, news reports, animation and present day interviews to tell its complex story.

The interviews and hearing tales from some of the participants is truly fascinating. A hit man in prison recounts some of the murders he committed in disturbing detail without showing any kind of remorse.

You really get a sense of how dangerous the streets of Miami had become and that no one was safe from the violence. The drug runners I found especially interesting, as they describe the lengths they would go to get their shipments into the city and the relative ease in which it was done. There’s no way a lot of their methods would work today, but they were incredibly creative for the time.

It’s a really well-made, comprehensive look at the cocaine epidemic in Miami. I saw the version entitled Cocaine Cowboys: Reloaded. I believe it is an expanded version of the original 2006 doc Cocaine Cowboys with additional content. I can’t compare it to the shorter version since I haven’t seen it, but during the one I saw, which runs for about two and half hours, it moved very fast and I was disappointed that it didn’t continue further. It’s a captivating story.


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