Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin' With The Godmother

Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin' With The Godmother

Billy Corben's 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys traced the rise of the drug trade in Miami in the late '70s and early '80s, illustrating with journalistic rigor—and no small amount of stylistic flash—how obscene amounts of cash begat a culture of ostentation and senseless violence. Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin' With The Godmother jumps to the other side of the country, continuing the story of one of the first film's most memorable characters: Columbian drug baroness Griselda Blanco, whose attempts to consolidate power helped end Miami trafficking's golden age. Pursued by the law, Blanco fled west, and was eventually arrested in California, where news reports about her vast network of dealers and assassins impressed Oakland crack-lord Charles Cosby. The two began corresponding, and soon Cosby became a mentor to Blanco's son, Michael Corleone (yes, that's actually what "The Godmother" named her boy) and deeply involved with what remained of her operation. Soon, Cosby was a millionaire, having conjugal visits with Blanco in prison, and living in constant fear for his life.

Cocaine Cowboys 2 follows the same basic format as its predecessor, leaning heavy on lengthy first-person anecdotes, delivered directly into a moving camera. But because the new film's story is more personal, with less file footage to draw on, Corben frequently illustrates the anecdotes with garish animated re-enactments—a technique that's rapidly becoming a cliché in modern docs. Cocaine Cowboys 2 also suffers from a limited scope. While the first film's lull-free, headlong approach made sense because there was so much ground to cover, CC2 is really only about two people, and as such, it could stand to take a breath every now and then.

Still, the West Coast version of this story stands on its own, serving not as an epilogue, but a necessary, fascinating reflection. Cocaine Cowboys was about enterprising folks dabbling in crime and getting filthy rich; the sequel is about two dirt-poor people who became criminals by circumstance, and rose through the ranks by their wits. But their problems are the same: supply, trust, and what to do when so much money comes in that you run out of places to put it.

Key features: A commentary by Corben and producer-editor David Cypkin, deleted scenes, and a behind-the-scenes look at how the interview footage was carefully stage-managed.

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