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Escobar: Paradise Lost is a genre film that gets a lift above mediocrity thanks to an overripe performance by Benicio del Toro as a slovenly, charismatic king of blow.

2.5 out of 4 stars

Title
Escobar: Paradise Lost
Written by
Andrea di Stefano
Directed by
Andrea di Stefano
Starring
Benicio del Toro, Josh Hutcherson and Claudia Traisac
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English

A biopic about Pablo Escobar? That rings a couple of bells.

Seasons three and four of the HBO series Entourage featured a subplot about actor Vince Chase's misguided biopic about the life of the billionaire Colombian drug lord. For years, Oliver Stone has been talking about a Scarface-style epic about Escobar as arch-criminal and folk hero.

In the meantime, we now have the melodramatic thriller Escobar: Paradise Lost, written and directed by Italian actor Andrea Di Stefano (Eat Pray Love), a genre film that gets a lift above mediocrity thanks to an overripe performance by Benicio del Toro as a slovenly, charismatic king of blow.

Story continues below advertisement

Regrettably, the movie isn't actually about Escobar: The hero is a numbingly bland fictional Canadian surfer named Nick (The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson), who falls under Escobar's toxic sway.

The film begins in 1991, when Escobar, on the eve of his negotiated surrendering to the police, summons the jittery young Nick to do a couple of last-minute errands: Hide the boss's treasure in a cave, kill a guy. The movie flashes back to the "paradise" part a few years earlier when Nick and his brother, Dylan (Brady Corbet), first arrive on the Colombian coast to set up a surf school. Shortly after, Nick falls for a beautiful senorita, Maria (Clauda Traisac), and, through her unctuous uncle Pablo, finds himself engaged to the cartel.

For the film's second half, the action returns to 1991, and a extended cat-and-mouse game with Nick on the run from Escobar's goons and, apparently, every police officer in Colombia.

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