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Don’t Check into MGM+s Hotel Cocaine

It’s the 1970s, the height of the disco era. In Miami, The Mutiny Hotel lies as the nightclub hot spot for all things drugs, dancing, and all-around debauchery. It’s also the hub for cocaine business transactions. Whatever coke is spread across Miami, starts at the Mutiny. Enter the dapper average Cuban family man Roman Compte (a fairly decent Danny Pino who’s trying to overcompensate for the scripts that give him so little to work with), an exile and CIA operative. Now he’s turned over a new leaf as the Mutiny hotel general manager. Early into its opening episode, he’s forced by the DEA’s ratty Agent Zulio (Michael Chiklis) to spy on Nestor Cabal (Yul Vazquez), a feared hot-headed gangster, Miami’s major coke importer. Oh, and he happens to be Roman’s estranged older brother. As Roman is thrust into this DEA situation, it's not long before he regains his brother’s trust again by doing some snaky stuff to survive. And with a little bit of bloodshed, you can sense a spark of madness in his eyes. You know where Roman’s arc will head down just by him committing his first few moments out of survival.

Throughout, Roman must keep his head: balancing between restarting his relationship with Nestor and gaining his trust; managing the hotel and answering to his neurotic boss and hotel owner Burton Greenberg (Mark Feuerstein); and being a dutiful partner to his girlfriend Marisol (Tania Watson) and father to his 16-year-old daughter Valeria (Corina Bradley).

Sitting between “loosely based on” and Wattpad-styled fan fiction, the show actively takes the true-to-life aspects and frames an aggressively in-your-face series of crime cliches that actively spin its wheels. As if it were “GoodFellas” run through a processor system but with Cubans, Roman and the players within his ho-hummed crime-filled world engage in never-ending simplistic interactions. Every thankless conversation revolves around where drugs are to drop, when a criminal gang is to arrive, or who’s arriving at the club. Soon it becomes an excruciating endurance test forcing you to do your best from changing the MGM+ channel and watch any better offering within the crime fare. “Hotel Cocaine” operates on the same D-tier crime flick you see in every Redbox bin as its never-ending cycle of dull dance party scenes within Mutiny, preceded by generic drug-crime conversations and followed by more dancing.

Since this is Miami, which was a hub for more ethnic groups to get in the way, you can only imagine the many people of color slain on screen. In the first episode, Roman and Nestor try to obtain drugs from a Haitian crime gang early on. You can expect where that leads, and as a writer of Haitian heritage, watching a prominently non-Black series featuring a group of Haitians slain graphically added a sour taste in my mouth, apart from the show’s already middling quality. 

The genericism is furthered by lame Mutiny-related B-plotting regarding Greenberg and his right-hand Janice Nichols (Laura Gordon), who dish out a “Guess Who” game with ‘70s pop culture stars coming into the hotel. Oftentimes characters scream “oh my God, is that ___,” akin to the famed “Family Guy” meme where a random celebrity shows up at the Griffins’ household. And the writers are gleeful in listing off the famous folks who once entered the Hotel and, to that extent, assume those facts make Mutiny cool. Yet they go about it through endless name-dropping, and the occasional actor doing poor cosplay of said famous person

For a show that hinges on the drug and party culture in possibly one of the most unhinged times in history, “Hotel Cocaine” actively fails at doing anything remotely interesting with the Mutiny Hotel. Despite being claimed as the Casablanca of 1970s Miami, the hotel is only utilized as the basis for drug trader talk and the occasional five-second dance scenes featuring the in-house burlesque showgirl dance group “the Mutiny girls”. Yet even those sequences fail to impress since the story is so disinterested in giving the hotel any character. Much of the awkward dialogue and clunky flow recalls infamously trashy flicks like “Gotti” and “Spinning Gold,” but less fun.

As the season continues, you can feel the show running out of ideas. One subplot involves Roman’s daughter Valeria dating a drug lord’s son and another involves Burton in a power struggle with his older sister Constance (Maggie Lacey) over club ownership because they faced a traumatic past together. And when I say their feud is resolved over them sharing a disco dance as if it were a scene out of Disney movie, I mean every word.

While both lend themselves to something interesting, showcasing how the criminal world they’re oblivious to/surrounded in affects their joy it’s at the behest of a banal crime thriller that let’s be honest, hardly anyone would have any interest in watching beyond their deep affection for “Narcos,” a clear inspiration for this MGM+ offering. “Hotel Cocaine” is one of those shows meant to cash in on another series’ success without putting any work into what made the inspiration work. With writing that seems to have been put through an AI request, this dull, awful series deserves to be thrown from the highest roof of the Mutiny Hotel.

Seven episodes were screened for review.

Rendy Jones

Rendy Jones (they/he) is a film and television journalist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published independent outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics' Choice Association, GALECA, and a part time stand-up comedian.

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