It’s a tragic fact of life that secretly most of us would love to have a go at being a gangster. The sex appeal of violent men is well documented and people who for example argue that somehow the realness of gangster flicks like ‘Goodfellas’ really show how tawdry it all is are high on something probably sold to them from a person whose kicking back money to a gangster.
As long as men are taught to cherish their cojones and have boring mundane jobs that suck the masculinity out of them, then the fantasy of packing heat and smuggling illegal substances will hold a massive allure.
Which brings us to ‘Narcos’ a series based on the life and times of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.
Anyone who has read Mark Bowden’s ‘Killing Pablo’ will know that his life is a story that you would have a hard time making up.
A petty criminal and smuggler approached by the wonderfully named Chilean coke producer ‘Cockroach’ to help him shift tons of coke, Escobar become a billionaire who was so powerful that he offered to pay off Colombia’s national debt in return for amnesty.
The narrator of ‘Narcos’ is a DEA agent based in Colombia called Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) who takes the naïve viewer through the in and outs of Colombian politics and drug trafficking ‘etiquette”.
Mixed in with this is real documentary footage of the various political and criminal players in this story giving it the feel of a docudrama at points but in a way I’ve not really seen before. In addition as it doesn’t have to pander to a normal TV audience much of ‘Narcos’ is in Spanish and subtitled. But then if the average American man is ever going to watch a subtitled piece of TV it’s going to be if it involves a lot of killing and gangsters. This ‘Narcos’ provides, while at the same time being patient and intelligent enough to also explain the political realities. Wagner Moura who manages to be both a loving father and husband to his family, while happily butchering everyone else’s, brilliantly plays the role of Escobar. Rather than just be a symbol of simmering evil he manages to bring a certain pudgy likeability to the man, making him like a favorite uncle, who just happens to kill people in his spare time. This is if anything more disconcerting than making him a coiled symbol of gangster rage.
A brilliant and totally addictive introduction to the most infamous gangster on the planet and what it means to a country that gives birth to him.