Combustible Celluloid
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With: Josh Hutcherson, Benicio Del Toro, Brady Corbet, Claudia Traisac, Carlos Bardem, Ana Girardot, Laura Londoño
Written by: Andrea Di Stefano, Francesca Marciano
Directed by: Andrea Di Stefano
MPAA Rating: R for violence including grisly images
Language: Spanish, English, with English subtitles
Running Time: 120
Date: 06/26/2015

Escobar: Paradise Lost (2015)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Coke and Dagger

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Apparently loosely based on a true story, Andrea Di Stefano's movie features a commanding Benicio Del Toro performance and creates some gripping moments, but it's also a bit too conventional to be truly electric.

Canadian surfer Nick (Josh Hutcherson) moves to Colombia with his older brother in hopes of setting up a small business on the beach. He meets the beautiful Maria (Claudia Traisac), who happens to be the niece of the notorious and powerful drug lord Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro). Nick soon finds himself welcomed into the family, and some trouble on the beach with some local thugs mysteriously goes away.

But as time passes, Nick becomes more and more uneasy with his situation. In 1991, as Escobar is about to go to prison, Nick makes secret plans to whisk Maira away to Canada. But before he can leave, Escobar sends Nick on an important mission to hide some loot, with an order to kill his driver. Will Nick survive the coming bloodshed?

Before long, it becomes apparent that Escobar: Paradise Lost is following in the footsteps of the Oscar-winning The Last King of Scotland, (as well as The Freshman, with a comic turn on a similar story) with their innocent youths becoming enthralled with great, evil power.

So, rather than telling a story about Escobar and his unique relationship with wealth, power, and influence, the movie becomes about the Josh Hutcherson character waving guns and running for his life. But despite some rudimentary screenwriting shortcuts, Di Stefano provides many small moments and a rich atmosphere that help the characters spring to life, and, on the whole, the movie is fairly gripping.

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