The film places a greater focus on the notion of unwilling complicity than most in the gangster genre, but still struggles to produce much original insight.
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Like flipping through the pages of a pulpy best-seller, watching Loving Pablo has its moments of guilty pleasure but leaves an empty feeling when you reach the end.
The film uncomfortably dwells in a murky middle ground where everything is overblown but meant to be taken at face value.
Tolerating Pablo might have better suited this unremarkable picture in which the wealthiest criminal of all time’s reported charisma takes a back seat to his badness.
Long, loud and lurid, with a distinct whiff of week-old quesito colombiano, Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s pulpy Pablo Escobar biopic promises an alternative spin on familiar material by taking the perspective of the drug kingpin’s glamorous journalist lover Virginia Vallejo. Yet she turns out to be as stock a presence as anyone else in this blood-spattered chunk of cartoon history.
Loving Pablo had the opportunity of making Virginia Vallejo its star. It should have pushed Escobar to the background so Bardem could shine as a villain-in-waiting instead being gifted the spotlight.
The awkwardly executed English-language Loving Pablo is a brash but ultimately anonymous, sub-Scorsesean number from Spain’s Fernando Leon de Aranoa.
Cruz gets little to do in general apart from wear a succession of gaudy ’80s outfits, while Bardem, who gained weight for the role (reportedly aided by prostheses), acts primarily with his massive, frequently exposed gut. Both actors speak throughout in heavily accented English rather than Spanish, a choice that exemplifies Loving Pablo’s indifference to authenticity.
Escobar is not without interest, sweep or colour, but bears signs of high-level, edit-suite indecision over what sort of movie it wants to be. It’s an alluring product, inexactly cut.
But for all its missteps, it's tough not to be engaged. Cruz's full-tilt flamboyance is just too much fun, and her more down-to-earth moments can be devastating.