I thought Vinny Chase already did this movie?
Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro) was known for committing many terrible acts in his life and sometimes, those who were closest to him were the ones who were on the receiving end of these said acts. One person who is about to find this out, up close and personal, is Canadian surfer bro Nick Brady (Josh Hutcherson). After he and his brother (Brady Corbet) are hassled endlessly by locals for using their land as a place to rest, Nick starts to date Escobar’s niece, who then invites him to meet her infamous uncle. Though Nick doesn’t know what to make of this larger-than-life figure that is Pablo Escobar, the two end up striking something of a friendship; with Escobar even going so far as to call Nick “a son of his”. While Nick is happy to receive this sort of treatment from Escobar, he knows that his true home is Canada and he wants to go back to it, however, little does he knows that when you’re with Pablo Escobar, you can never leave. And even if you do try to, good luck, because he will find you, hunt you down, and make sure you lose all those who are close to you.
While a lot of Paradise Lost has been advertised with Del Toro’s name and face pushed to the center, it’s actually the opposite when you look at the final product of the movie itself. Sure, Del Toro is in this movie plenty of times, getting his moments to shine and menace as the role he’s always been born to play, Pablo Escobar, however, it’s clearly Josh Hutcherson’s movie. That’s not to say that Hutcherson acts out Del Toro, but that is to say that Hutcherson’s character is clearly the main protagonist here that we spend an awful bunch of time with, getting to know, understand, and see as he gets himself out of whatever terrible situation he’s thrown into.
And you know what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Hutcherson himself is actually very good in the lead role as the fictionalized Nick Brady; while I’ve been fine with his performances in the past, from here on out, I remain forever confidante that he can hold his own. Because the Hunger Games franchise is coming to an end, it’s time for Hutcherson to grow into his own as not only an actor, but as a man who is capable of handling adult-like roles. Here, as Nick Brady, he gets many opportunities to do so and it works quite well, especially considering the fact that a lot of what this Brady character goes through, can seem somewhat repetitive and boring.
While he does start off as something of a squeaky clean, overall good guy, Brady’s eventually taken down several dark paths that mostly question his sense of humanity. The actions that he’s called onto commit, are not only heinous, but quite surprising, and it’s interesting to see how this character handles each and everyone that’s thrown at him; while he doesn’t want to necessarily deny these choices he has to make, Brady is still wondering just how he can get by these decisions, and still keep a sense of dignity within himself. Slowly but surely, though, Brady starts to change in front of our own very eyes, and it’s very intriguing to watch coming from Hutcherson – someone who is so used to being seen as “a kid”, is now able to fully grow-up as a desperate, tough and unpredictable person.
And yes, Del Toro is good, too. But once again, it’s Hutcherson’s movie, and it all works, even if may piss-off those who were looking to see a movie where Pablo Escobar commits all sorts of dastardly actions.
Although we do get to see some of these actions, or better yet, the after-effects of them, writer/director Andrea di Stefano is more concerned with the plot itself and it shows. Not only does di Stefano know how to create tension, but he knows how to settle it all in a way that’s effective, as well as smart; it is, at one point, a social tale about all that Escobar did to Colombia and those who worked with him, but it’s also a compelling thriller. It goes down certain alleys you don’t see coming, but they also don’t feel cheap, either – they just add more danger to this tale than ever before and it allows the stakes to continue to rise, even if you know how it all ends for Escobar himself.
But then, at the end of the movie, there’s an odd feeling of wondering: What was the point of all that? Sure, we got to see how one character got so sucked into Escobar’s personality, that he was also the one who had to break away from it as soon as he realized he was in harm’s way, but other than that, is there anything else?
Hate to say it, but not really.
Maybe that’s exactly what di Stefano wanted to deliver on – a thriller of sorts – but it also feels like a missed opportunity to go deeper. Heck, having Del Toro around to play Pablo Escobar is already enough promise as is, so why not try to capitalize on it a bit more? The angle of focusing on Nick Brady was interesting, yes, but it also makes it feel very simple and easy, especially given the fact that this movie could have focused on so many more elements at play in this real life story.
Then again, the movie does cover a whole lot more ground that Entourage ever did in their third season, so I guess there is something to be said for that. And maybe, it’s just a case of me complaining about nothing just for the sake of doing so, but when your movie turns into a Colombian-version of Behind Enemy Lines, there’s a part of me that feels like maybe a few other angles could have been taken. Even if, you know, the angle they took worked as it was.
Consensus: Even if Del Toro isn’t around as much as Pablo Escobar, Paradise Lost is still a solid-enough thriller to be gripped by, especially due to the fact that Josh Hutcherson brings his A-game as well.
7.5 / 10