Stylistically Distracting But Enjoyable
Every community and generation has their own urban legend. As a 31 year old British male, I have vivid memories of a childhood full of stories around a hack to unlock a rare Pokemon on the original Gameboy games and a particularly bizarre rumour about Marilyn Manson having a rib removed. Fast forward to 2019 and Netflix’s latest documentary film aims to scratch that rumour-mill itch, presenting a fantastical, incredulous urban legend involving a bag of cocaine on a remote island called Culebra.
The documentary itself begins with a brief background into goofy, middle aged Rodney Hyden. After seeing a boom in the construction industry and enjoying a taste of the high life, the most recent economic crash spelt disaster for him and his family, bringing their fortunes back down to Earth. Desperate to replicate the windfall of his early boom, Rodney embraces an urban legend around a bag of cocaine worth $2 million and sets to work finding it and bringing it back to the U.S. With a ravenous thirst for getting his hands on the money and little practicality, the story itself is hard to believe and even harder not to laugh at in disbelief.
The story becomes more incredulous and fantastical as it goes along, helped by a comedic tone and numerous segments involving those who had a hand in the case. Even the police, obscured with a shadow across their face, can’t help but laugh at the clueless, child-like wonder of this man that certainly bit off more than he could chew when he went searching for this drug stash.
I love a good stylistic documentary but Legend of Cocaine Island often takes this to the extreme. With numerous slow-motion shots, slick camera movements and separate musical segments invoking a live band and stock black backgrounds, at times The Legend Of Cocaine Island feels a little distracting with its presentation. It also takes away from some of the enjoyment of the story too, as the repeated, slowed segments of dialogue and echoing bites of speech slow the pacing of the film down far too much.
The Legend Of Cocaine Island is unlike many of the other documentaries on Netflix. For better or worse, there’s little educational content here and a lot of what’s said does feel like hearsay. Despite that, if you can take to the story and allow yourself to be swept up by the narrative itself, there’s certainly enjoyment to be had here. It’s not perfect, and stylistically there are some problems with the editing and embellished camera work, but if you’re in the mood for a tall tale, The Legend Of Cocaine Island may just be what you need.
Verdict - 6/10