Escobar: Paradise Lost
Directed by Andrea Di Stefano
Starring Benicio Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson and Claudia Traisac
Written by Andrea Di Stefano and Francesca Marciano
Rating 3.5 /5
Benicio Del Toro has played wicked but the profound wickedness he brings to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar is breathtaking. So who is this man Del Toro portrays? Escobar grew up a petty criminal in the Medellin area of Colombia and rose to become the world’s most notorious trafficker, a gifted strategist unburdened by conscience and untouchable for nearly 20 years. Just being wicked never gets powerful drug lords anywhere. It’s that added layer of sizzling charisma that gets them to the top – the X-factor that allows a person to bypass normal rules and behaviour and eliminate resistance. Del Toro brings him to life, this beloved, charming and profoundly evil man.
Escobar broke all the rules, ordered countless murders and walked on a lot of willing victims to control the cocaine trade between south and North America from 1975 to his death in 1993. At the height of his reign of terror he is alleged to have moved $500M in cocaine per day and carry out crimes and routine executions to maintain it. No one, no government, police force or rival could touch hm.
He held sway over hundreds of lives in his immediate circle and unknown numbers of official and unofficial forces from Colombia, Mexico the US and God knows where else. It’s believed that his reach extended to Europe and Asia and that’s not counting the drug habits he fed. Escobar was a fist that pummeled his way into absolute power and held on for decades. He was wildly popular in the Medellin area as a local businessman and politician, and his people were devoted to him.
This is the story of Escobar’s personal power and how it played out with a naive Canadian surfer played by The Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson. He arrives in Medellin with his brothers and friends for the beach bum life. They set up camp in a jungle and he soon meets a local girl who seems like a dream, a good Catholic family girl. Thugs demand money from the brothers to rent their squat and she tells her uncle. Shortly after that the thugs are found hanging and burned. Her uncle is Pablo Escobar.
She knows what her uncle does, and naively justifies it as a tradition; her family has sold coca leaves for generations. Hutcherson’s character appears to the news and is a taken into Escobar’s circle. He leads the good life with private parties, the private zoo, the sprawling estate, all the amenities and the protection and privilege under which he lives. It soon turns to gall as he puts two and two together but he continues the romance and proposes. Why? Escobar orders him to carry out business jobs, and his moral values are tested time and time again. How far can it go?
Benicio Del Toro’s vivid intimate portrayal makes it clear that Escobar had two sets of values, one for family the other for business. He is a dedicated family man who knows this one’s birthday and that one’s dating status and preference in clothes. He sends kill orders from the swimming pool as he carries toddlers. In the field, he is a kind but firm boss who commands absolute respect and love from his men. His enemies rarely survive. And yet as Del Toro illustrates so brilliantly, Escobar is a loving, warm and generous man with a heart of gold that masks a soul of pure evil.
I shouldn’t say I was surprised by how well Hutcherson did, but considering he’s known for soft pretty boy action in The Hunger Game franchise, but I was. Initially he has a casual appeal but as the plot thickens he takes a stance of extreme alertness, because he is no longer safe. I believed him the entire way.
Andrea Di Stefano keeps the pace and facts building to almost unbearable levels of tension. The film’s exciting, has a sense of history and illustrates the power of the cult of personality as a means to fame, infamy, and legacy.
It’s a trip. Hang on to your hats.