What would you do if you heard tell of a duffel bag filled with $1M+ in cocaine that is buried on a small island in Puerto Rico, just waiting for someone to dig it up? Most people would do nothing but not Rodney Hyden, the subject of Theo Love’s new documentary, The Legend of Cocaine Island.
For years, at weekly get-togethers in their small Florida town, Rodney would listen to his neighbor tell the story about how he once found 20 pounds of cocaine in the crystal-blue waters of Culebra but, not knowing what to do, buried it in the brush near his trailer. After the 2008 financial crisis hit and Rodney was in dire financial straits, he made the decision to hop on a plane and find this mythical cache of drugs that had been sitting there for nearly two decades.
Through thumping music and stylish reenactments performed by Rodney and his crew, Love presents a wildly entertaining, stranger-than-fiction doc that contains plenty of fascinating twists and turns along the way. The tone is mostly kept light, as Rodney and his colorful cast of associates walk us through their wildly reckless plan, now able to look back on the events as a series of humorous lapses in judgement.
Love was fortunate in that all the central players of this tale are both very good storytellers and interesting enough to keep things colorful, even in the slower-paced moments. Using the actual people (for the most part) involved in the scheme over hiring performers for the re-enactments was an excellent decision, as Love knew exactly how to present this wild story both in tone and visual flair.
It’s a great-looking film, and if we didn’t already know it was a documentary, it could be easily have been mistaken as a work of fiction. My only criticism with Cocaine Island would divulge the ending, but I had hoped Love would dive a bit deeper into the implications given during the conclusion, as it raised some interesting theories about why things ended the way they did.
It also seems he wasn’t able to gleam much information from the neighbor who initially found the drugs, and it would have been nice to press him further for more details. Perfectly suited for Netflix, Cocaine Island is a light, fun documentary that contains plenty of “holy shit” moments and will no doubt spark a multitude of water-cooler conversations come Monday morning.