This may or may not be an unorthodox start to a film review. However, before moving forward with my thoughts on Andrea Di Stefano‘s directorial debut “Escobar: Paradise Lost,” I’ll describe my absolute favorite scene in it. This will make sense later.
Nick (Josh Hutcherson; “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” 2013) wakes up to find a picturesque view of the beach in front of him. He shifts in his hammock and looks to his side and boom! There she is—Maria (Claudia Traisac), the love of his life. The pair share a kiss set to Max Richter’s (“The Lunchbox,” 2013) gorgeous soundtrack that takes this sweeping moment of romance and passion to dazzling highs. Those few minutes are probably the most incredible in the film and make you want to fall in love; want what they have.
It’s also a scene, like many others, that somehow wasn’t necessary and, if chopped off, wouldn’t be missed.
This is ironic because Di Stefano’s “Escobar: Paradise Lost” is billed as a romantic thriller. With dreams of opening up a surf shack in Colombia, Nick and his brother (Brady Corbet; “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” 2011) hit the coast. Here Nick meets Maria, who happens to be the niece of the “king of cocaine,” Pablo Escobar (Benecio Del Toro; “Che,” 2008). They fall in love and know that if they’re gonna consider having a life, they need to be as far from the place as possible. Unfortunately, Escobar has other plans.
Di Stefano has massive potential, which shows in many places in this film. The narrative is high-tension, with a lot of excellent character writing—especially of Nick and Escobar, both of who are internally taken down fascinating paths. As I’ve previously mentioned, Richter’s a fantastic composer, and his score is pitch-perfect. Boasting excellent production design and Luis David Sansans’ (“2033,” 2009) picture-postcard lensing, the in-universe reality is a powerful visual component of the film.
Here’s where the problems begin. “Escobar: Paradise Lost” has many well-written, acted, and directed scenes—including the one I mentioned at the beginning of this review—that are individually riveting to watch. Del Toro, Traisac, Hutcherson, and Corbet consistently pull their best punches in the movie and are excellent. Unfortunately, it’s all they are: a disconnected and randomized compilation of brilliant scenes, the sum of whose parts don’t form a satisfying whole. As a result, it feels very long and atrociously paced, which for a 120-minute-long movie is a tad disappointing.
Despite many of these flaws, the film is still magnetic enough for viewers to give it one viewing. It might not be a complete success and can’t seem to gracefully or cleverly handle its tonal shifts. However, considering there’s more good than bad, it still is a fascinating experiment. Keep your expectations in check, and you’ll find the promising direction and powerhouse performances of Del Toro and Hutcherson in “Escobar: Paradise Lost” make it mostly watchable.