Rated: R for violence including grisly images. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: June 26, 2015 Released by: Radius - TWC
It's got the look and the titular star but something is off in an intermittently gripping Escobar: Paradise Lost starring a not so gaudy if off-center Benicio del Toro and Josh Hutcherson. In a way that makes for a lost attempt at an oddly compelling biopic.
Andrea Di Stefano's unchronological Panama-shot film is gorgeous to look at with Hutcherson's Nick more of the central figure than del Toro's clownish, yet vicious Columbian drug lord. Nick is a Canadian surfing in a serene Columbia finds his way into Escobar's milieu through his passion for lovely niece Maria (Claudia Traisic).
Establishing some melodrama the backstory after the 'meet the parents' scenario some may recall the likes of Midnight Express where an Eden-like existence goes awry when Nick is with his brother (Brady Corbet) and sister-in-law. Di Stefano (an actor turned director) jumps forward to major crossroads for Escobar after enduring much bedlam from his violent business and has Nick help him in way that would make him one of his own. You wonder how Nick has gotten in this precarious situation and the filmmakers wisely don't elaborate.
If Escobar centered more on Escobar and the stick relations with the guy who really isn't seen with Maria very much at all, so little personality is devoted to Hutcherson (who has excelled more in The Hunger Games franchise with Mockingjay Pt. 2 on the horizon). Del Toro takes advantage of role in what appears to be a fish-out-of-water comedy at times with the naïve Nick beginning to understand the scope of an empire built on cocaine and turning rightly petrified later on.
A potential taut latter section is nullified in favor of arguably well-staged action from the dynamic of father, daughter, and lover with the director letting a charismatic del Toro putting his own personal stamp on the dark character seen at times benevolently and a national hero. Yet, in the promising way behind the camera, the startling intrigue of paradise around Escobar with its striking scenery and atmosphere is too prosaically lost.
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