There is a television fan base out there thirsty for some new action. That fan base would be fans of true crime dramas. Streaming service, Netflix, looks to quench the thirst of parched fans of “The Wire,” “Breaking Bad,” “Boardwalk Empire,” and “Money & Violence” with its upcoming release of “Narcos.” The new Netflix show will focus on the rise and fall of “El Padrino” Pablo Escobar, the Colombian billionaire “King of Cocaine” in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Pablo Escobar is a man who needs no introduction, but for those who may not be hip, he was El Chapo, before El Chapo. Escobar was a career criminal who rose from obscurity to building a cocaine empire that supplied 80% of the world’s blow through his Medellin Cartel. At one point, Escobar and the Medellin Cartel were shipping 70 tons of coke shipped into the United States per month. His empire earned him an estimated net worth of $30 billion. In 1989, Forbes listed Escobar as one of the world’s 227 billionaires, at the time, valued at $3 billion. Escobar would go on to be a hero to scores of Colombians, as he built soccer fields, hospitals, schools and churches. He would infuse housing projects with money for residents. In turn, his appreciative admirers worked on his behalf as lookouts and counterintelligence operatives against law enforcement. Other drug runners in Medellin would pay tribute to Escobar to the tune of 20% to 30% of their profits.
In addition to putting cocaine on the map, Escobar is also responsible for a considerable amount of violence. It is estimated that 60,000 died as a result of Escobar’s rule. Colombia was considered the murder capital of the world with 25, 100 deaths in 1991 and 27,100 the following year. Escobar even went so far as to put hits out on police officers (600 were killed) and blew up an airliner to get one man. After the assassination of a Colombian presidential candidate, the government negotiated with Escobar to stop his operations in exchange for a reduced sentence and preferential treatment. Escobar complied and built his own luxury prison, called “La Catedral.” Escobar was later embroiled in all-out war with vigilante outfit, Los Pepes (financed by rivals) and Search Bloc (a special Colombian police trained by the U.S.). He was killed in 1993 while trying to flee Search Bloc.
None of that is a spoiler for “Narcos.” Those are merely small excerpts from a criminal career made for Hollywood. The show was shot in Colombia and is produced by Brazilian filmmaker José Padilha. Pablo Escobar will be played by Brazilian actor Wagner Moura (“Elite Squad,” “Elysium”), who learned to speak Spanish for the role. The show will be available in English and Spanish. The English version will include some subtitled content.
Hopefully, “Narcos” delivers. The story is there. Next Friday, we’ll see if they come with. The subject matter implies that the show could be a classic.