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BLOW:
How a Small-Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellin Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All
by Bruce Porter














Powderburns:
Cocaine, Contras & the Drug War
by Celerino Castillo, III


Killing Pablo:
The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw
by Mark Bowden



. "Cocaine Cowboys"

There aren't a whole lot of people on the planet who don't know that Miami is full of vice. A certain TV program recent movie has made sure of that. But what very few people know are the inside details of its emergence as the drug capital of the country--if not the world-- its beginning in the late 70s, its almost law-proof operation for years, and the specific issues that caused its downfall. This film exposes all that with candid revelations by key players from law enforcement, the legal profession, journalists and a surprising cast of inside participants whose connections erected a pathway to a huge drug marketplace.

What gives director Billy Corben's expose' the impact and authority it has is his access to the people who provided the underground operation its structure and, after serving time and finally having the freedom to be open, are so willing to talk. Not just talk, in fact, but recount every detail in their memories. They pour it out from a perspective of the grand adventure in their lives--the evolution of an illicit enterprise that made them very rich while they ignored the murder and moral devastation their product created. They tell their stories like interviewed rock stars, making the most of their chance to glorify their roles as entrepreneurs in a $20 Billion enterprise.

From slimily clever opportunist Jon Roberts we get the picture of a small time cocaine trafficker of Miami hooking up with the Medellin cartel and stepping into the role of wholesaler to the major channels of distribution on the retail level. Virtually invisible except to his dealer clientele, he alone eventually disperses over 2 billion dollars worth of the powder from a safe, cat-bird seat of illicit trade.

From Mickey Munday we get another extremely articulate view of the setup. This ace pilot finds his fortune in modes of transportation between the cartel to the south and the market to the north, primarily in air cargo. Another sweet arrangement carved out in the early days, involving less risk than the ugly trafficking and dangers on the streets. According to his own estimates, he smuggled over 10 tons during his career and now commiserates over what might have been had it not ended.

And, then, there's Jorge "Rivi" Ayala, equally articulate and self-absorbed. Rivi is the handsome, charismatic contract killer who, as chief enforcer for one of the most deadly sociopaths to stain the concept of being human, Griselda Blanco, enabled her to maintain advantage and fear among her competition and light the fuse for the explosive Cocaine Wars. Through her sheer taste for internecine homicide, her orders and Rivi's work product brought on the attrition of the drug trade and an end to its high level of success. Eventually, her grisly disregard for life was the best thing that could have happened for law enforcement and legal prosecution.

As retired police detective Al Singleton tells it, when the ruthless Blanco, an ex-prostitute from Colombia, also referred to as "the queen of cocaine" and "the Black Widow," moved away from Miami (to Los Angeles in 1984), the homicide rate in the "murder capital of the world" immediately plummetted, demonstrating her contribution to the bloodshed. But that's just historical confirmation of what Rivi, the triggerman, is coldly corroborating for our understanding, taking extreme pleasure and pride in his accomplishments. Few of his victims would argue about his claims were they around to do so.

All these people who speak so candidly on camera do so after serving prison time. Their stories are studies in maximizing criminal connections that were as symbiotic as they were sordid.

The extraordinary amount of footage Corben develops with his voluble interview subjects and out of stock libraries provides only part of the pounding impact of his film. He makes even more out of the unraveling with an aggressive, balsy piece of editing (by him and David Cypkin), cross cutting specific details or episodes from multiple tellers almost at the same time for a "Rashomon" like corroboration of facts. Dynamic pacing, music by Jan Hammer and the journalistic approach are harnessed and shaped into a piece of informative documentary filmmaking that belongs as much on library shelves and agency case files as in your local theatres. One of its effects will be to set writers off in creating more new fictional characters based on these real ones.

Corben and his partner Alfred Spellman produced under their Miami-based production company, rakontur which, derived from the word raconteur (they tell us in their titles) means, "One who tells stories with skill and wit." They live up to it with a model of documentary filmmaking that employs a full arsenal of cinematic power.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Well written
This review will influence me to see this movie
Site rating: 10

I AM VERY EXCITING TO SEE THIS MOVIE AND WOULD LIKE TO GO THE PREMIERE ON THE 18TH.

                                                           ~~ Louis C. 
Very well written
This review will influence me to read more by this reviewer
I've seen the movie and I agree with the review
Site rating: 10

I Think it shows people who really was the kings of cocaine,THE OCHOA FAMILY.

                                                           ~~ Orlando G. 



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