Del Toro casts a men­ac­ing spell

Los Angeles Times - - MOVIES - — Glenn Whipp

The grandly ti­tled “Es­co­bar: Par­adise Lost” fol­lows the fall of not, as Milton would have it, Man, but of one par­tic­u­lar (fic­tional) man, a naive Cana­dian surfer who f inds him­self en­meshed in the tur­bu­lent life of Colom­bian drug lord Pablo Es­co­bar.

When the f ilm opens, Es­co­bar ( Beni­cio Del Toro) is about to go to prison. But be­fore he turns him­self in, Es­co­bar wants to hide as much of his “eco­nomic power” ( drug money) from his en­e­mies ( ev­ery­one) as he can, which is why he’s hand­ing Nick ( Josh Hutch­er­son) a 9- mil­lime­ter gun and pro­vid­ing de­tailed in­struc­tions about stash­ing his loot and then mur­der­ing the lo­cal farmer en­listed to help.

How did Nick get here? There’s an un­in­volv­ing flash­back to hap­pier times at the beach when Nick met lo­cal girl Maria ( Claudia Traisac). She’s beau­ti­ful and ide­al­is­tic. And she re­ally wants Nick to meet her un­cle. That f irst en­counter, a birth­day party at Es­co­bar’s op­u­lent es­tate, of­fers a note of cau­tion. If your host lays out solid gold table­ware, his Robin Hood per­sona may be more myth than re­al­ity.

Vet­eran Ital­ian ac­tor An­drea di Ste­fano, mak­ing his di­rec­to­rial de­but, seems to be­lieve that less is more when it comes to the film’s ti­tle char­ac­ter. But when you have the for­tune of land­ing an ac­tor like Del Toro, it’s al­most crim­i­nal to spend so much time watch­ing the scales fall from an in­no­cent’s eyes when we could be watch­ing a master ac­tor con­vey quiet, sleepy- eyed, mum­bling men­ace.

When the plot cir­cles back to those open­ing mo­ments, the movie finds a mo­men­tum that ends spec­tac­u­larly. And again: Beni­cio Del Toro is play­ing Pablo Es­co­bar. What more do you need? “Es­co­bar: Par­adise Lost.” MPAA rat­ing: R for vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing grisly im­ages. Run­ning time: 2 hours. Play­ing: In gen­eral re­lease.

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