Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting this to be a great movie going in, but I was pleasantly surprised by Andrea Di Stefano’s directorial debut.
The film tells the story of notorious drug lord and criminal, Pablo Escobar. Back in the early 90s, Escobar reached the peak of his fame as one of the most wanted men alive for his roles in drug trafficking, political misdemeanours, murder, theft, and conspiracy to commit murder.
Nick Brady, a Canadian surfer, visits his brother Dylan in late 80s’ Colombia when he meets Maria, a local girl who turns out to be Escobar’s niece. A relationship blossoming between the two, Nick soon learns of Escobar’s profession — all aspects of it — and gets sucked into the drama of it all as the man-hunt for Escobar reaches its height.
When you have the likes of Benicio Del Toro, an actor of undeniable caliber, within the cast, you can expect a truly great level of acting. Exactly so, Del Toro shines as expected, painting a portrait of Escobar as a loving father and dangerous criminal. What is interesting, however, is that Di Stefano sheds light on Escobar as a family man rather than a cold-blooded murderer. I found myself feeling somewhat sympathetic to the drug lord as justice slowly caught up to him. That said, Escobar’s looming presence was felt all throughout the movie’s two hour run. He may be a family man, but he’s also the big bad wolf on the street.
While I expected Del Toro to be great — and he was — the true shocker for me was Josh Hutcherson’s portrayal of Nick. I’ve been a fan of Hutcherson’s ever since his Little Manhattan days, but his recent endeavours in cinema (Sorry Hunger Games fans) haven’t showcased everything the actor has to offer. That is why I was happy to see Hutcherson in a role that played to his strengths. It wasn’t the best performance, but it was definitely one of the actor’s better efforts.
Paradise Lost is quite well-made for a debut. It showcases Di Stefano’s talents as a budding filmmaker; a feat worth noting. That said, the film still had a few shortcomings.
Most notably, the pacing in the beginning was too rushed. Nick and Maria’s relationship seemed to manifest seconds after the characters meet. I understand that their relationship might not be as central to the plot as it is at the center of it, but a rational chronological order is expected nontheless. I didn’t find myself rooting for the pair of them all that much. Not at all really. Come to think of it, this is the first that’s occurred to me. Well, you see my point.
Another off-putting factor was the dosorientation in the beginning. The transitions between different scenes and different time frames weren’t as smooth as one would expected and were at times confusing even.
Overall, Escobar: Paradise Lost is entertaining enough to keep you engaged for two hours. Supported by beautiful frames and great acting, the film stands a promising effort from director Andrea Di Stefano.
Image sources: imdb.com, hitfix.com, cineuropa.org
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