A lurid true crime documentary that, occasionally, unfolds like a particularly gruesome episode of NBC's long-running infotainment series "Dateline," director Billy Corben's follow-up to 2006's salacious, totally compelling drug doc Cocaine Cowboys would seem wildly over the top and contrived were it not all so meticulously documented. For those who haven't checked out Cocaine Cowboys (and by all means, you should), the film explores the violent, wealthy world of Miami's drug trade in the late Seventies and early Eighties, providing a non-fiction glimpse at people and a milieu that gave us such timeless TV series as "Miami Vice."
Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin' With the Godmother, which essentially expands upon events mentioned only briefly in Corben's first film, is even more insane -- you'll emphatically agree with the film's protagonist, Charles Cosby, when he declares at the film's conclusion, "I'm a lucky motherfucker" -- yet not quite as engaging as its predecessor.
Corben's biggest hurdle with Cocaine Cowboys 2 is that he really just stretching what could charitably be called an extended anecdote into a feature-length follow-up. (Actually, this entire film is an expansion of a 14-minute featurette titled "Hustlin' with the Godmother" found on the Cocaine Cowboys DVD.)
The story of Oakland, Calif.-based drug lord Charles Cosby and his tumultuous association with Griselda Blanco (the so-called "Godmother" of the Colombian cocaine trade) is the kind of stuff Hollywood screenwriters salivate over and indeed, Cosby seems highly self-aware, conscious of the seductive nature of his tale. And so Cocaine Cowboys 2 follows Cosby from his Oakland childhood up through the ranks of Griselda Blanco's organization (including their brief, torrid affair that might just re-define your ideas of conjugal visits) and their lethal falling out, culminating in protracted legal proceedings that most definitely do not end in a conventional manner.
Through it all, the implacable Cosby -- seen frequently in snapshots fondling cash, posing in front of cars or sticking his tongue down Blanco's throat -- maintains an effortless cool, embodying the very type of outlaw celebrating in rap songs, a bad-ass dude who ran the streets and got out clean.
Yet, as mentioned earlier, Cocaine Cowboys 2 just doesn't quite have the snap of the first film -- perhaps it's the unwavering focus on Cosby's life, whereas the first film hopped around a bit. Corben employs several animated sequences to re-enact pivotal moments in Cosby's life, which adds a layer of surrealism to the film. There's also a handful of recycled interviews cribbed from Cocaine Cowboys, sprinkled throughout the film where appropriate. Don't get me wrong: For those who dug the original Cocaine Cowboys, this film will likewise get you high -- just don't expect the buzz to last quite as long.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer won't dazzle anyone, but for what it is, it gets the job done. The film itself is a full-tilt patchwork of recently filmed interviews, animated sequences and washed-out archival news footage so the quality varies wildly from scene to scene. Even most of the newly filmed interviews have extreme color filters applied to them (strong oranges and blues) so it's hard to accurately gauge the warmth .
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track gets a few chances to shine, particularly with the booming, rap-heavy soundtrack, but since the bulk of the film relies on Cosby's recollections of his violent, larcenous life, the main activity is relegated to the front channels. Still, all the dialogue is heard clearly, with no distortion or drop-out. An optional Dolby 2.0 stereo track is also included as are optional Spanish subtitles.
The supplements don't seem quite as exhaustive on this second film, although they're worth sifting through for fans of the film. The 15 minute, 17 second featurette -- titled "Making of 'Cocaine Cowboys 2': Hustlin' with Charles Cosby" on the menu and "Motherfucker This is a Documentary: Making of CC2" in the featurette's title screen -- goes behind the scenes and shows the filmmakers at work. Corben sits for another commentary with co-producer/animation director David Cypkin; both men talk a mile a minute about the film's origins, the soundtrack and the struggles to clear TV footage. A two minute, eight second behind-the-scenes photo gallery (presented in anamorphic widescreen) plays out against the film's score, as do two other galleries: A three minute, four second archival photo gallery of Cosby and Blanco (presented in anamorphic widescreen) and a one minute, 41 second art gallery of animation sketches (presented in anamorphic widescreen). Nine minutes, 10 seconds of deleted scenes are offered up in non-anamorphic widescreen, as is the trailer for Cocaine Cowboys 2.
A lurid true crime documentary that, occasionally, unfolds like a particularly gruesome episode of NBC's long-running infotainment series "Dateline," director Billy Corben's follow-up to 2006's salacious, totally compelling drug doc Cocaine Cowboys would seem wildly over the top and contrived were it not all so meticulously documented. Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin' With the Godmother, which essentially expands upon events mentioned only briefly in Corben's first film, is even more insane, yet not quite as engaging as its predecessor. Nevertheless, especially as a companion piece to Corben's excellent first film, it's recommended.