Werner Herzog has said that he's not happy with the way "Cobra Verde" turned out. Since I don't know how it was supposed to turn out, I can only give my opinion of the finished product.
Klaus Kinski (in his last starring role in a Herzog film) plays a Brazilian cattle rancher forced into poverty due to a drought and a death in the family. He spends some time as a gold miner, but when he is cheated by the paymaster he takes up a life of crime and becomes the almost comically-feared bandit "Cobra Verde".
He almost-accidentally becomes a foreman to the owner of a sugar plantation; when he falls afoul of the man by impregnating his daughters, the plantation owner decides to appoint him as a vice-regent in West Africa, in the hope that he will get himself killed in the process of reviving the slave trade. Unfortunately for everyone, Cobra Verde is resourceful enough to accomplish his mission-- just before the British destroy the slave trade for good. Cobra Verde is cheated again, and he dies in a futile attempt to sail a slave ship back to Brazil.
Again, I don't quite know what the problem is-- all the actors and actresses are fantastic, Herzog achieves epic results on a small budget, the photography and music are beautiful, and the story is powerfully moving. I've decided not to worry about it. The film has some amazing moments: the 360-degree pan at the beginning, the woman who seduces Cobra Verde during a thieving raid ("Your money or your life!" "My life."), the lone holdout from the Brazilian stronghold, the mad African chief,... and the beautiful girls singing a ceremonial song at the end, all build up to an amazing viewing experience. Herzog's films have this quality of almost adhering to a formula, but they let a bit of random strangeness through-- just like real life. I don't think Herzog has anything to worry about.