Willy & Sal
Mountain of Evidence
Only in Miami
Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami is the latest Netflix docu-series to dive into the drug trade. Only, this certainly isn’t the first rodeo when it comes to depicting Cocaine Cowboys. Back in 2006, a stunning documentary about the Miami drug trade released and arguably became the cornerstone reference for how to tell a compelling and eye-opening story about this topic.
Well, Director Billy Corben is back again with Kings of Miami, a six-part series that hones in on Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta. Or the “billionaire Cubans” as they become infamously known as.
Accused of importing 75 tons of cocaine into Miami, these two largely unassuming figures skyrocketed to infamy on the back of a string of dodgy court trials and slipping through law enforcement cracks. In fact, this cat and mouse chase went on for over a decade thanks to how much influence they both had over the political and legal institutions of Miami.
As is the case with a lot of the Netflix true-crime efforts, this could easily have been condensed down into a more pacey and lively 4 episode romp. There’s a lot of exposition and long-winded explanations here and while interesting, does bog down the pace a little more than it should.
The first episode essentially serves as an introduction to the whole case. Both Willy and Sal start from the very bottom and soon find themselves skyrocketing to the top.
Each episode thereafter meticulously breaks down the timeline, with the usual array of talking head interviews for good measure. There’s a handy timeline here too, which hops back and forth between years and keeps things engaging.
On the same topic, there are also maps and diagrams too, depicting flight paths and the usual dose of archival photos, artist illustrations (for the court cases) and even TV newsreel footage too. As one may expect though, despite some impressive aesthetics, Kings of Miami fails to ascend to the same heights that the original Cocaine Cowboys achieved.
However, this is an undeniably engrossing watch and there’s a really balanced perspective across the run-time too. As the series progresses, Kings of Miami expands out to interview more than just the drug dealers. Prosecutors, lawyers and even the defence team feature late on, with some compelling characters standing out from the mix.
Despite a few grumbles with the run-time, Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami is a compelling docu-series. Whether it has the chops to match up next to so many other shows on the topic however, remains to be seen. Still, there’s definitely some stand-out moments and enough to recommend giving this a watch.