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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jun 18, 2018

Escobar: Loving Pablo Movie Review: Loud & Lurid Biopic On The Life And Downfall Of Colombian Drug Lord Pablo Escobar

‘ESCOBAR: LOVING PABLO’ is a movie about Pablo Escobar, the world’s most notorious drug lord who started the infamous Medellin cartel in the 1980s. The film is based on the book of a journalist with whom he had a tempestuous affair, Virginia Vallejo, entitled “Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar”, but this fim version includes details about the nefarious career and ultimate downfall of Escobar and his empire.

There have been many films on Escobar. There are several documentaries like “Finding Escobar’s Millions” (where two ex-CIA agents travel to search for the millions of dollars that Escobar buried underground all over Colombia), “Ciudadano Escobar” (a docu showing real footage of Escobar himself), “Sins of My Father” (a 2009 Argentine film on Escobar made with the help of his son who now lives in Argentina with a new name, Sebastian Marroquin), “The True Story of Killing Pablo” and “Killing Pablo” (docus both about the death of Escobar), “Reputations: Pablo Escobar, How Cocaine Conquered a Country” (another docu), “Pablo Escobar: El Patron del Mal” (a TV series made in Colombia), “Escobar: Paradise Lost” (a 2014 movie starring Benicio del Toro as Escobar) and the Netflix series with two seasons, “Narcos” (this for us is the most definitive).

Why is Escobar so infamous? Because his illegal drug trade turned his country into a narco state. Robert Mazur, the real life agent who helped track him down for five years and whose exploits were made into the film “The Infiltrator” starring Bryan Cranston, describes him as “a vindictive and coldblooded killer who thought little of sacrificing innocent lives in the pursuit of his world-beating ambitions.” He has no qualms in killing people and his own son later returned to Colombia to apologize to the sons of his dad’s most prominent victims: presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan and the Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonita.

Escobar is also mentioned in “American Made”, a movie on the life of Barry Seal, an airlane pilot
played by Tom Cruise, who transported cocaine for the Medellin cartel. Medellin has since been cleaned up and renovated. It is now said to be a tourist attraction.

As the world’s most powerful drug kingpin, Escobar made so much money he no longer knows where to stash them, which is also showed in “Narcos” with Escobar and his men shown putting millions of dollars inside drums that they bury underground. And he becomes so ruthless that he turned the Medellin region into a war zone where even kids are given guns and are rewarded with cold cash everytime they’ve killed a policeman or a soldier and they turn in their badges to the cartel.

If you think two seasons of Netflix’ detailed storytelling in “Narcos” would be too long for you, “Loving Pablo” as directed by Spanish filmmaker Fernando de Aranoa is something you can sit through in just two hours, spiced up with scenes of violence and torture and brutal assassinations. It’s a loud, lurid and pulpy biopic as it’s told by his glamorous TV journalist mistress in bullet points (with lots of bullet holes) starring no less than Spain’s real life first couple, Bardem and Cruz, both Oscar best supporting winners, as the leads.

Escobar gives Virginia suitcases full of cash and it seems that their relationship is really based more on material excess as we’re not given much insight about the more intimate aspects of their relationship. It would seem that Escobar got Virginia to help him in his foray into politics as a congressman. He wins as people look up to him as their Robin Hood, but is eventually ousted by political machinations that leads to a deadly power play and several massacres.

Virginia’s career was ultimately ruined by her association with Escobar and she is reduced into a pathetic bitch crying for desperate help in that scene in a pawnshop where armed men tried to attack her. This makes her seek the help of the USA’s DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), as represented by Agent Shepard (Peter Sarsgard), whose role is so limited compared to the role played by Boyd Holbrook in “Narcos” as the agent who acts as the narrator of the series, where Virginia was renamed as Valeria Velez.

Bardem seems enjoying chewing the scenery as the murderous carnal beast that the flabby Pablo is, often displaying his huge paunch and even agreeing to do a scene where he is shown running stark naked in the river, with all his rippling and flapping cellulites. This is after the helicopter raid staged by cops on his jungle lair and the DOM happened to just have made love to a very young teenage girl who was screaming in terror.

Cruz also does well as the increasingly terrorized Virginia who seeks asylum with the DEA. But actually, she deserves the fate that befell on her. After all, throughout her relationship with the drug lord, she never even showed having any kind of moral dilemma about what she was doing with him. The movie is a perfect reminder that you sow what you reap.