Sunday, 27 September 2015

Escobar: Paradise Lost

For those of you who don’t know Entourage, it was a brilliant comedy series (and disappointing film) that followed the lives of a fictional young actor and his friends trying to get by in Hollywood, given extra authenticity by having countless actors playing themselves and making the Entourage world feel like the real world. Back in the early years of the show, a running storyline was Vincent Chase’s attempts to secure the role of Pablo Escobar in ‘Medellin’, an Escobar biopic within the series. One of the hurdles Vincent came up against was the possibility that Benicio Del Toro may have already secured the role. Now, in one of many cases of life-imitating-Entourage, Del Toro is finally here playing the infamous drug lord. 

Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray comes Andrea Di Stefano’s directorial debut Escobar: Paradise Lost, a ridiculously underwhelming little film. Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games’ Peeta) stars as Nick, a young surfer who falls for the beautiful Maria (Claudia Traisac). Everything seems hunky dory until Maria introduces Nick to her uncle, the feared criminal Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro) who quickly pulls Nick into his dodgy business. Unfortunately, this narrative is one of the main issues with Escobar: Paradise Lost. Instead of opting for a straight-up biopic of Escobar, the film is more of an unfocused romance between the two youngsters with thriller elements and the occasional appearance from everyone’s favourite Columbian drug lord. This is ridiculously disappointing for those of us who’ve waited a long time to see Escobar’s story reach the screen – even more so for us Entourage fans who want to see a real-life ‘Medellin’! 

Benicio Del Toro owns the film and, unsurprisingly, proves himself a perfect casting choice for the iconic criminal. His subdued lack of mercy combined with the ease with which he orders murders creates a strong sense of darkness and dread throughout the film, and creates an incredibly strong presence for his character, as with Brando in The Godfather, despite the focus rarely being placed on him. Unfortunately we must spend the majority of our time watching Josh Hutcherson’s silly little romance with Claudia Traisac, which really does not need to be in an Escobar film. One can only imagine this was done to try and shift a few more tickets to the Hunger Games crowd – an example of Hollywood being more evil than Escobar himself, getting too greedy to realise they’re wasting the opportunity to make a great film. Hutcherson’s Nick is so bland and lifeless in comparison to del Toro’s menacing presence that it makes him look even worse, like Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher. Patrick Smith of The Daily Telegraphy wrote ‘Every time del Toro's onscreen, you're so blown away that you end up angry at what might have been’. And he’s right. This could’ve been a phenomenal, award-winning crime thriller with that performance. Back in Entourage, ‘Medellin’ was labelled as ‘the next Scarface’ and that’s exactly what this could’ve been. But it’s not. It’s one of the most disappointing films ever made, especially given the strength of the source subject and the talent playing the character.

It’s not all hopeless. Escobar: Paradise Lost looks nice enough, don’t get me wrong. The visuals perfectly match the tone of the film, especially as they get darker and bleaker when Nick learns more and more about ‘Uncle Pablo’. The music is great, and the direction is more than adequate, especially from a first timer. In terms of the production, it’s certainly a decent effort. But unfortunately it’s this insistence on focusing on a fictional young romance that cuts deep, when Escobar’s thrilling life could fill a hundred films by itself. Benicio del Toro is incredible in it, but he has unfortunately wasted his time on a criminally underwhelming film that could’ve been so much more. What a shame.

Escobar: Paradise Lost is not the film it could’ve been, and walks away with a disappointing 2/5.


Sam Love

Escobar: Paradise Lost at CeX

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