When San Francisco-based private investigator Michael Brennen (O.J. Simpson) gives a ride to Joey Crawford (John Spencer) on Christmas Eve, he doesn’t know that it’s going to lead to the biggest case of his career. When Joey asks Michael to help him track down his ex-girlfriend, Michael assumes that Joey would never be able to pay for his investigative services. But one week later, Michael gets something in the mail from Joey. Inside the envelope, there’s a picture of both Joey’s ex and a thousand dollar bill. Ever after he discovers that Joey was mysteriously killed the night before, Michael decides to take on the case. His investigation will take him not only to Joey’s ex but it will also lead to him uncovering a drug ring that involves one of San Francisco’s most prominent families.
Simpson not only starred in this made-for-TV movie but he also served as executive producer. Watching the movie, it’s obvious that it was meant to serve as a pilot for a Michael Brennen TV series and it’s also just as obvious why that series never happened. O.J. Simpson was not a terrible actor but, ironically for someone who set records as an NFL player, there was nothing tough about him. Simpson may be playing a two-fisted, cash-strapped P.I. but, in every scene, he comes across like he can’t wait to hit the golf course. Simpson’s pleasant demeanor may have served him well in other areas of his life but it didn’t help him with this role. Whenever Simpson has to share a scene with John Spencer, Candy Clark, Cliff Gorman, or any of the other members of this film’s surprisingly talented supporting cast, Simpson’s bland screen presence and lack of gravitas becomes all the more apparent.
Of course, when seen today, the main problem with Cocaine and Blue Eyes is that it’s impossible to watch without thinking, “Hey, didn’t the star of this movie get away with killing his wife and an innocent bystander?” Even the most innocuous of lines take on a double meaning when they’re uttered by O.J. Simpson. It doesn’t help that the movie opens with Michael visiting his estranged wife and their children on Christmas Eve and getting chased around the neighborhood by a guard dog. When the movie was made, this scene was probably included so that O.J. could show off some of the moves that made him a star at UCLA and with the Bills. Seen today, the scene takes on a whole different meaning.
Without O.J. Simpson, Cocaine and Blue Eyes could easily pass for being an extended episode of Magnum P.I., Simon and Simon, or any other detective show from the 80s. With Simpson, it becomes a pop cultural relic. I don’t think it’s ever been released on DVD but it is available on YouTube, where it can be viewed by O.J. Simpson completists everywhere.