THE LEGEND OF COCAINE ISLAND
Tallgrass, Cucalorus, BendFilm, Sidewalk, Traverse City, American Film Festival Poland
A far-fetched tale of hidden illicit treasure captures the attention of a hapless man desperate for money.
Rodney Hyden carved out a measure of success for his family as a small business owner in Florida, but then the Great Recession struck, and he lost everything. Seeking a way to get back on track, he hears a crazy story from a neighbor involving a bag of cocaine that was secreted away on the Puerto Rican island of Culebra, alleged to be worth $2 million. Despite the lack of any practical knowledge of the drug trade, or any real connections that could facilitate the sale of cocaine – nor, pointedly, any apparent concern about placing kilos of hard drugs onto the streets – Hyden concocts a hare-brained scheme to visit the Caribbean island and retrieve the buried treasure. The level of his ineptitude can be measured by noting that his first attempt fails because he forgot to bring a shovel, but his missteps don’t end there. Director Theo Love, noting a good story when he hears one, appropriately spins his own wild tale out of the proceedings, bringing style and humor to this recounting of his hapless protagonist’s misadventures. At the same time, missing in this lighter approach to this stranger than fiction episode is an acknowledgement of how Hyden’s privilege figures in to his ultimate reckoning, a stark contrast to how other individuals from different racial and class backgrounds caught up in similar illegal activities are typically treated. Leaving that systemic issue aside, Love’s film succeeds in demonstrating the seduction of storytelling, and in an entertaining manner.