Paradise Lost features a perfectly casted Benicio del Toro and offers gripping action, but any impact it tries to achieve is diffused by a formulaic plot, an underbaked narrative and underwritten characters.

When a young surfer (Josh Hutcherson) begins a relationship with the niece of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro), he finds his life on the line after being pulled into the dangerous world of the Escobar family business.

Similar to The Last King of Scotland, the tale of a legendary figure is told through the point of view of an innocent. In Paradise Lost, it’s a promising but also problematic decision.

The said innocent is played by human Lego Josh Hutcherson. His previous roles hasn’t offered him much range to work with until this film and manages to pull it off. The movie’s saving grace is Benicio del Toro. He deftly balances creepiness with charm to portray the looming threat to Nico’s life.

The cinematography was able to capture the beauty of its quaint period detailed setting. The framing device – handheld camera – clearly tells the audience that this dark tale is shown through Nico’s perspective.

However as the story progresses, a question becomes evident – is this a movie about Escobar or a dumb Canadian? Worse, the movie doesn’t offer much either way.

The tedious introduction reveals nothing about its characters beyond the surface. We’re given glimpses of Escobar’s power but doesn’t explore the complexities of a man who has a twisted definition of family and faith. However it can be argued that the script had to make a trade off because this is about Nico after all.

The movie switches gears to become a full-on thriller revolving around his survival. While it’s a tense and engaging sequence of events with a sense of urgency and dread in every turn, it’s hard to care for Nico and the rest of the characters who got thrown into the fray. The Canadian is one dimensionally naive. His love story is predictable and cliched.  As par for the course, you have the worried girlfriend and caricature goons.

In the end you’ll wonder why this movie is named as it is and/or get disappointed for being mislead. The third act is a potential angle to the story especially when there’s already a lot of movies about Escobar, but its generic and forgettable.

Overall, Paradise Lost fails because its characters and stories are too thin to hold on. It’s not a biopic as the title suggests. It’s not an engaging character story either. It would have been more  compelling if the movie fleshed out its leads and explored their dynamic. Sadly, it opted to be an empty plot driven action thriller.

My Rating: 6/10

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