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REVIEW: Josh Hutcherson’s ‘Escobar: Paradise Lost’

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Crystal: Hey everyone, Sarah and I are going to be doing a little “chat review” on Escobar: Paradise Lost, which stars Benicio Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson, and Claudia Traisac.
Sarah: Hi everyone!
Crystal: So the first thing I wanted to touch on was that if there are some of you out there who are Josh fans but weren’t sure about going to see a movie about Pablo Escobar with Josh Hutcherson in it, I can say that you won’t be disappointed. The movie, while named after Escobar, is really all about Josh Hutcherson’s character, Nick.
Sarah: I definitely agree with that. As a pretty big Josh fan, I was one of those people. In the beginning of the film I was thinking it was going to be really anti-climactic, but its a fantastic movie. And yes, Josh’s character Nico (?) is definitely the centre of all the action. I was actually surprised by thae romance aspect of the whole movie. I thought that it would occupy a lot of the run time, but I was pleasantly surprised by the focus on character and backstory.
Crystal: Well, his name is Nick, but since the story takes place in Colombia, I guess they call him Nico. And yes, the film is being labelled a “romantic thriller.”
Sarah: I think thriller is definitely the right genre, although I’d label it as ‘crime thriller’ personally, the romance seems to take a back seat after the first quarter of the movie.
Crystal: The premise of the film is that Nick, a Canadian surfer, comes to Colombia to be a part of his brother’s surf camp on the beach. One day while buying lumber, he meets Maria, who he immediately falls for.
Sarah: Definitely love at first sight for Nick…
Crystal: Eventually she takes him to meet her uncle, Pablo Escobar, who is a notorious drug lord. “Uncle Pablo” quickly wins Nick over with his warmth and friendship, which makes Nick very confused and conflicted.
Now, just to note, I went into this movie not having any idea who Pablo Escobar was (sorry!), so I think that made it easier for me to sympathize with the position Nick quickly finds himself in, simply because Escobar welcomes Nick into the family with open arms and basically starts nudging them to get married and have babies. I’m sure to a guy who thinks he’s found the girl he wants to marry, that’s a pretty sweet deal. 🙂
Sarah: I’m with Crystal, I didn’t know his story either, and I could see both sides, which I wouldn’t usually expect. I think that’s a testament to Del Toro’s acting. He goes from beloved family man to ruthless leader in seconds.
Crystal: It really was kind of scary how quickly he could turn his character around. He looked like he packed on a lot of weight for the role, which made him look like a big, intimidating man. Add in the beard and his acting and you just can’t help but be simultaneously happy and terrified for Nick.
Sarah: Definitely, and I think because of that it was hard to actually pin down the ending. I love when a film’s plot direction is unclear, it just makes for a more tense and enjoyable climax. This movie actually had me shouting at my screen in exasperation.
Crystal: Haha, how so?
Sarah: I was shouting at Nick, he frustrated me toward the end, haha!
Well, not so much him, but the situations he gets himself into.
Crystal: As for Josh’s acting, I couldn’t help but feel like the first half of the film was mostly Josh being Josh. It’s not until the film takes a dangerous turn that we start to see a better performance from him.
Sarah: Ah perhaps this is where my bias comes in, but I thought he did a really great job. I agree in a sense though, Nick was very similar to Josh in the beginning of the movie, and it wasn’t until the meaty parts of the film that Josh really got stuck in.
But all in all, I thought the performance was strong and consistent.
And that smile… butter wouldn’t melt. But I digress.
Crystal: Haha, I figured, but it wasn’t really a criticism so much as an observation.
Sarah: Yes, haha. A surprise for me was Claudia’s performance. I’ve never seen her acting before at all, but she just lit up the screen. Her character brought so much life into an otherwise extremely dark plot.
Crystal: Are they still dating? You can see why they were. 🙂
Sarah: I’m not sure actually, but yes, she has such a natural flare. The camera loved her.
Crystal: You mentioned the extremely dark plot, and that’s definitely important to note because the movie definitely has scenes that aren’t appropriate for younger audiences.
Sarah: Yes, though I would say that I didn’t engage emotionally as much as I’d expect. I can’t quite place why that is though.
Crystal: The film did ultimately feel a little incomplete. When it ended I was confused, yet not. It almost felt like the director himself wasn’t sure what he wanted to say in the end.
Sarah: I know what you mean. Or I think maybe it was more for me that the closure that came wasn’t the closure I was after…
Crystal: Yeah, it sort of felt like they were meaning to build up to something else, but then just left it hanging. I don’t want to spoil it, but the movie showed a lot of loose ends being tied up and when there’s one left, it’s just left there like, eh whatever, with an ambiguous ending.
Sarah: I know exactly what you mean. Having said that, with all that in mind I did still genuinely enjoy the film. I think there was a good enough balance of romance / action / suspense for it to work.
Crystal: Yeah, definitely, though I’m not sure I’d have paid to see it in theaters. It was one of those movies where I’m happy enough renting it and watching a decent film, but with the price of movies lately, I have to go with the ones that *must* be seen on the big screen. This could easily be enjoyed at home.
But like we said earlier, if you are a big Josh fan, it’s definitely worth your time and money. 🙂
Sarah: For sure, although like you just said, I think with the style of the cinematography etc it feels more at home on a smaller screen. The story felt more intimate. But as I am a Josh fan, (providing it gets distribution here) I will definitely be heading to the cinema.
As a Josh fan, I can guarantee that you guys will love this film. You get to watch him being his adorable self the first half of the movie, before the real action kicks in, and once it does, we see some fantastic acting from the main cast. The story is really entertaining and to be honest, I went in expecting to be disappointed, and I couldn’t have judged it more wrongly. A must watch for all Josh fans, and all crime/romance thriller fans!
Crystal: Escobar: Paradise Lost will be having a limited release in the United States starting this week, and if you go see it be sure to come back here and tell us what you thought of it!

About Crystal

A 35 year-old mom to two living in Honolulu, Hawaii, Crystal Watanabe is co-author of Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches.
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