NAR­COS

Crime Scene - - CONTENTS - By NEIL SMITH

As Se­ries 2 hits Net­flix, the first se­ries about Es­co­bar ar­rives on DVD.

Plata o plomo – sil­ver or lead. That was the stark choice Pablo Es­co­bar gave those who stood in his way as he rose to be­come one of the wealth­i­est crim­i­nals in his­tory. The makers of this drama about the no­to­ri­ous Colom­bian drug lord can’t use bribes or bul­lets to keep the viewer hooked. With a story as ad­dic­tive as this one, though, they re­ally don’t need them.

Vis­ceral in de­tail, nov­el­is­tic in struc­ture and ac­com­pa­nied through­out by a Good­fel­las- style voiceover, Nar­cos jux­ta­poses the in­ex­orable as­cent of the “king of co­caine” with the dogged at­tempts of two DEA agents to cut him down to size. But it also tells of the other mem­bers of Es­co­bar’s Medellin car­tel, a mean al­liance of hom­bres who, when not seek­ing to ex­e­cute and un­der­mine each other, were re­spon­si­ble at one point for 80 per cent of the yayo smug­gled into the US.

With Pablo hav­ing a sim­i­lar per­cent­age of his coun­try’s law­men, judges and politi­cians in his pocket, the DEA agents, Steve Murphy (Boyd Hol­brook) and his part­ner Javier Pena (Pe­dro Pas­cal), have their work cut out for them. Yet they have an un­likely ally in Es­co­bar him­self (Wag­ner Moura) – a man whose crav­ing for re­spectabil­ity and in­flu­ence all too of­ten sees him work­ing against his own self-in­ter­ests. Art­fully blend­ing new and ar­chive footage, Nar­cos skil­fully recre­ates some of Es­co­bar’s most out­ra­geous ex­ploits – the storm­ing of Colom­bia’s Supreme Court in 1985, for ex­am­ple, or the down­ing of a com­mer­cial air­plane in 1989 that left 107 dead (but not the pres­i­den­tial hope­ful it was meant to kill). It also has him ter­ror­is­ing his home­land with a cam­paign of kid­nap­pings and as­sas­si­na­tions, crimes that didn’t stop him ne­go­ti­at­ing a truce that saw him “im­pris­oned” in a pala­tial gaol that he him­self de­signed.

Through it all, how­ever, Moura re­mains strangely, scar­ily like­able, his goofy smile and Santa paunch sug­gest­ing a cheery af­fa­bil­ity that’s con­tin­u­ally un­der­cut by his char­ac­ter’s dead-eyed ruth­less­ness. Like Scar­face be­fore him, Es­co­bar is a bad guy we can’t help be­ing drawn to – a danger­ous at­trac­tion that en­sures we’re with him right to the end of this de­but 10-episode run.

Right from the start, you just know this is not go­ing to end well.

Mus­tache wars had bro­ken out.

The vi­o­lence is pretty relentless.

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