With its strange mixture of crime, drugs, and music, Cocaine Cowboys has just enough weirdness to claim a small cult following. The picture was mostly shot in and around Andy Warhol’s beach house in Long Island, and Warhol plays himself in a few scenes. What’s more, the premise is a kick—under the leadership of a tough-guy manager, played by Jack Palance, the members of a rock band moonlight as drug smugglers. Had the filmmakers played up the connections between drugs and music, perhaps from a satirical perspective, this idea could have led somewhere. Alas, cowriter-director Ulli Lommel, who later became a prolific horror-movie hack, was not up to the task, so Cocaine Cowboys is clumsy, meandering, and shallow. At times, it’s only possible to tell characters apart based on what instrument they play or what pocket of the storyline they occupy. Briefly, the plot goes like this—after agreeing to complete one last job before ditching the drug trade forever, the band arranges for an air drop of $2 million worth of cocaine, then somehow loses the dope, triggering violent revenge from suppliers. Instead of creating tension, this set of circumstances has very little effect. The musicians hang out, record music, and shoot the breeze with Warhol, who prattles monotonously and snaps Polaroids. In the weirdest scene, one of the band’s associates woos a sexy maid into a tryst by claiming he knows the whereabouts of the cocaine, then compels the maid to service his fetish for being showered with baking powder. If you’re wondering about the title, the band (lead by real-life singer-songwriter Tom Sullivan) performs a downbeat number lamenting their status as “Cocaine Cowboys,” and some of the characters ride horses. Adventurous viewers might be able to tolerate long stretches of tedium in exchange for flashes of strangeness, but most folks will find Cocaine Cowboys irredeemably confusing and dull.
Cocaine Cowboys: LAME