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"The Legend of Cocaine Island" Review

 Someone says early in the beginning of Netflix's bizarre documentary The Legend of Cocaine Island that "the difference between Northern fairy tales and Southern fairy tales is that Northern ones begin, 'Once upon a time,' while Southern ones begin, 'Y'all ain't gonna believe this sh*t.'" And that aptly describes the Southern fairy tale that is told in this documentary.

 We are introduced to Rodney Hyden, a beefy fellow living his best life as a general contractor in Florida running a successful firm with 80 employees, doing big projects. He had a giant McMansion in the best neighborhood (which pleased his status-obsessed wife), a pool, a Harley, all the big boy toys the good life provides. Then the 2008 Crash wiped him out. With a million dollars in debt, the firm went under, they lost the house, etc. and ended up moving to a far less affluent patch of land where they lived in a double-wide trailer for quite some time as they tried to rebuild their lives. (A major failure of this film, like too many documentaries, is we never know what years events take place.)

 One of his new neighbors is an aging local hippie named Julian who has told a story to everyone in the area over the years about the time he was walking on a beach on a Puerto Rican island and discovered a duffel bag floating in the ocean stuffed with 70 lbs. of cocaine, eventually burying it. With a street value of over $2 million, it sure would be a windfall to whomever could find it, dig it up, get it back to the mainland, and traffic it and Rodney figures it should be him.

So he teams up with a stupid junkie named Andy (who appears as himself wearing a big cowboy had and sunglasses to disguise himself and comes off like a dumber version of Steve Zahn's character in Out of Sight) and a drug dealer named Dee (who wears a cap and skull bandana), the latter who hooks him up with Carlos (played by an actor) who runs a plane service and can transport the stash to Florida for a cut. 

The first trip down is a comedy of errors as Andy forgets his methadone and spends the whole time puking in the room and Rodney didn't even have a shovel and couldn't figure out where to buy one, the lack of Walmarts making that too difficult. A second trip with medicated Andy and a shovel is stymied by rock-hard soil which thwarts the obese guy and junkie. Figuring there was no way to make it happen, Rodney gives up until Carlos offers to retrieve it for a larger cut. All Rodney needs to do is give him the treasure map he'd put together with Julian's help. Rodney is naturally leery of getting ripped off, but what they heck, it's not like he was going to be able to get it himself.

It would be spoiling to say whether they are able to find the cocaine or not, but suffice to say things get extremely crazy and the clear naivete of Rodney comes back to bite his ample ass good and hard. Some serious questions are raised about what certain parties may have done (see below trailer for mine) in this caper, but it all somewhat works out in the end.

 Shot in a semi-docudrama format with some of the real people reenacting their stories mixed with talking head bits, The Legend of Cocaine Island gets a little drawn out and stylistically precious for its own good in spots - why do we need moodily-lit slow-motion footage of Rodney's daughter's marching band if it's not a Zach Snyder movie? - but the shaggy dog story is compelling enough to make the wander worthwhile.

Score: 8/10. Catch it on Netflix. 




Turn back if you don't want to be spoiled!



OK, when the issue is raised about whether the drugs were even found and the poor photo showing it vs. what was admitted as evidence, the anonymous DEA (or HSA) guy waves it away claiming that when they dug it up, they didn't have good cameras with them, they're just cops, so they used camera phones. However, if this was a DEA sting operation the whole time, why would they need to go out at night to dig it up. It was near a U.S. wildlife preserve and they were the Feds, so why not go out in daylight with heavy equipment and dig it up? 

 Perhaps Andy is being paranoid in positing that they fabricated the whole case and didn't even find the buried bag, but something definitely feels off and kudos to the judge to find a way to keep Rodney's dumb ass out of prison for a decade for a crime he couldn't even have been charged with if the government hadn't done all the work for him.


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