In order to succeed back in the heyday of VHS, all a movie really needed was clever box art and a strong tagline – basically just something to capture the imagination of an adventurous movie lover. With the tagline ” A lone American hero challenges the might of a viscous drug empire,” one can only imagine that “Cocaine Wars” is high-octane action. However, that assumption would be wrong, because this is an abysmal action picture that is a mess from start to finish.
The story has been done a million times. An American DEA agent in South America is undercover. He has seen some bad things and decides to take down the system without the help of anyone. Along the way he meets an old flame, and has some witty banter with the villain while they play an intense game of cat and mouse. Never groundbreaking cinema, but in a competent filmmaker’s hands, it often can be captivating stuff. Sadly, nobody competent was involved in this picture.
One principal and unspoken rule of action pictures is that when done right, the audience will overlook certain over-the-top aspects to the movie. We all know that Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone could not fight an army of villains with machine guns by themselves, but they are so good at convincing the audience they are this tough that we buy into the situation.
However, “Cocaine Wars” made a fatal mistake by using former “Dukes of Hazzard” star John Schneider as that lone American hero. The light, breezy charm that carried him in “Dukes of Hazzard” doesn’t work in what should have been an intense action yarn. Schneider plays DEA Agent Cliff Adams, and somehow manages to not do any real investigating. The character chain smokes throughout the picture, leading to an unbelievable scene where a car is chasing him – he jumps on the hood of the car and still manages to have the cigarette in his mouth.
But Schneider’s performance is only one of the major flaws here. Just try not to laugh when Adams tells the leader of the drug cartel, “Oh, by the way, I killed Klausmann on the way over here. Hope you don’t mind.”
Now, the back of the box states that Kathryn Witt plays the beautiful journalist in love with Adams, but she never does any journalistic work. And frankly, she isn’t all that beautiful, but that doesn’t stop the director from placing an awkward love scene into this turkey.
Another major issue with the film is the sloppy direction from Héctor Olivera, who didn’t seem to properly understand the concept of shooting the right amount of coverage needed for certain action sequences. During some of the film’s shootouts in the climax, you can tell exactly where insert shots were added. You see running, then it seems the actor or actress suddenly stops to wait to be shot and then continues to run.
The one thing that “Cocaine Wars” proves is that if “Mystery Science Theater 3000” ever decided to return to television, there are still many bad B movies left to spoof. If you ever stumble across this movie, just remember what Nancy Reagan said and just say no to “Cocaine Wars.”