Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Looks at the Shows You Should Have Watched (and Still Can) and Gives a Serial Update

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Looks at the Shows You Should Have Watched (and Still Can) and Gives a Serial Update

Article excerpt

Byline: Alastair McKay

SO WHO is the hero of Narcos (Netflix)? Is it, a) Steve Murphy, the drug enforcement agent embedded in late Eighties Colombia, who narrates the drama? Or is it, b) Pablo Escobar, the drug smuggler who hijacks the Colombian economy, gets the US hooked on cocaine and lives the life of a king, with beautiful women, fancy houses and an army of acolytes called things such as The Lion ("a big fan of John Lennon and Adolf Hitler go figure") and Blackbeard (the accountant, whose job it was to keep track of where the loot is buried)? Obviously, the clue is in the title.

Brazilian film-maker Jose Padilha originally pitched the idea of a drama charting the history of cocaine but scaled his ambition down to a more focused though still sprawling biopic of Escobar, who started as a small-time smuggler but struck gold when he calculated the mark-up on marching powder. "You don't have any vision, my friend," the charismatic Pablo (Wagner Moura) tells an accomplice. "It costs $10 a gram here. Imagine what it's going cost in Miami."

Escobar's rise has political ramifications at home and abroad. In Colombia, he tries to buy power. In the US, his activities prompt Nancy Reagan to open the War on Drugs, as narco-dollars are drained from the US economy. Dramatically, that's a whole heap of coconuts but Padilha and writer Chris Brancato (who has a background in police procedurals) keep things moving with a Goodfellasstyle narration and a largely unsentimental approach to character.

Moura brings a note of wounded majesty to Escobar but the rest of the cast remain sketchy. This is a fable aspiring to magical realism rather than documentary. That said, the women characters don't have much luck, being prostitutes mainly. Perhaps that's how it was in the court of Escobar but it does add to the sense of voyeuristic fantasy. …

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