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Review by Sharon Knolle
Produced by Dimitri Rassam,
Frederique Dumas, Jerome Seydoux
Written and Directed by Andrea Di Stefano
Starring Benicio Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson,
Claudia Traisac, Brady Corbet,
Carlos Bardem, Ana Girardot

Benicio Del Toro is thoroughly convincing as the notorious Colombian druglord Pablo Escobar in this biopic from first-time director Andrea Di Stefano.

The focus, however, is on Nick (Josh Hutcherson), a young man who has no idea what he’s getting into when he falls for Escobar’s niece Maria (Claudia Trisac). Before he realizes what kind of man Escobar is, he’s already part of his inner circle and finds it impossible to escape.

That’s a compelling storyline and Hutcherson makes a sympathetic and likable leading man; The Hunger Games co-star proves he’s able to carry a film, but the final act is unfortunately melodramatic and far-fetched.

While Escobar was very real and his brutal reign well-documented, the character of Nick is entirely fictitious. He serves to illustrate Escobar’s ruthlessness – initially disguised as benign leadership – but as Nick’s situation gets more desperate, so does the plot.

The movie begins will enough with Nick and his brother (Brady Corbet) arriving in Colombia for their own slice of paradise. They set up shop at the beach, where they’re intimidated by local thugs who turn up dead once Nick and Maria become an item and Escobar learns of the attempted shakedown.

Nick initially shrugs off his brother’s attempts to warn him of Escobar’s true nature. Once Nick realizes the truth, he attempts to flee with Maria, but Escobar has other plans for him. Nick is forced to kill or be killed and his wrenching moral dilemma initially makes for some tense scenes before descending into action movie cliches.

The film would have been far stronger without the melodramatic ending, but for fans of Del Toro and Hutcherson, it’s still worthwhile.

Escobar: Paradise Lost is now playing in limited release.

3/5 stars

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