A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Escobar: Paradise Lost is a thriller centered around notorious real-life drug lord Pablo Escobar. The movie's hero is a young surfer who inadvertently falls in love with Escobar's niece and is welcomed into the family. Expect lots of guns, shooting, killing, and blood, as well as some gory dead bodies and bloody wounds. A young couple falls in love and kisses, and she's shown in a bikini. Language is minimal but includes two uses of "s--t" (one in English, one in Spanish with subtitles). Though one of the main characters is a powerful cocaine dealer and cocaine is mentioned, drugs are never shown or used. Some fans may want to see what Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is up to between Hunger Games films, but -- barring any awards buzz for Benicio Del Toro's powerful performance -- it's likely that this movie will have only limited appeal for teens.
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What's the story?
Canadian surfer Nick (Josh Hutcherson) moves to Colombia with his older brother in hopes of setting up a small business on the beach. He meets the beautiful Maria (Claudia Traisac), who happens to be the niece of notorious, powerful drug lord Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro). Nick soon finds himself welcomed into the family, and some trouble on the beach with a few local thugs mysteriously goes away. But as time passes, Nick becomes increasingly uneasy with his situation. In 1991, as Escobar is about to go to prison, Nick makes secret plans to whisk Maria away to Canada. Before they can leave, Escobar sends Nick on an important mission to hide some loot, with an order to kill his driver. Will Nick survive the coming bloodshed?
Is it any good?
Apparently loosely based on a true story, Andrea Di Stefano's thriller features a commanding performance by Benicio Del Toro and creates some gripping moments. But it's also a bit too conventional to be truly electric. Before long, it becomes apparent that ESCOBAR: PARADISE LOST is following in the footsteps of the Oscar-winning The Last King of Scotland (as well as The Freshman, which took a comic turn on a similar story) -- both films center on innocent youths becoming enthralled with great, evil power.
So, rather than telling a story about Escobar and his unique relationship with wealth, power, and influence, the movie becomes about Nick waving guns and running for his life. Still, despite some rudimentary screenwriting shortcuts, Di Stefano provides many small moments and a rich atmosphere that help the characters spring to life; on the whole, the movie is fairly gripping.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Escobar: Paradise Lost's violence. How is it presented? How much of it is thrilling, and how much is grisly? Is it used for the purposes of a cautionary tale? What's the impact of violent media on kids?
Is Pablo Escobar appealing? Terrifying? Both at the same time? If both, how can that be? Why do we sometimes find ourselves drawn to bad guys? Do you think the movie glamorizes drugs in any way?
How or why does power corrupt? What's the appeal of power if corruption is inevitable?
From a storytelling point of view, what are the advantages or disadvantages of telling this story through Nick's eyes, rather than telling a straightforward story about Escobar?
- In theaters: June 26, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: October 6, 2015
- Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Benicio Del Toro, Claudia Traisac
- Director: Andrea Di Stefano
- Studio: Radius TWC
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence including grisly images
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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