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Review: Not much to love in the unremarkable Pablo Escobar bio 'Loving Pablo'

Review: Not much to love in the unremarkable Pablo Escobar bio 'Loving Pablo'
Javier Bardem in the movie "Loving Pablo." (Raul Soto / Universal Home Entertainment)

There’s not enough “loving” in the broad and glossy Pablo Escobar biopic “Loving Pablo” to justify that title, even though it is based on the memoir “Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar” by the notorious Medéllin Cartel boss’ onetime mistress, Colombian journalist Virginia Vallejo.

“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 in Javier Bardem’s rapacious, at times erratic portrayal, one that’s not helped by a funky (if perhaps accurate) hairdo, showy prosthetic paunch and unconvincing stabs at warmth.

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The film, directed and scripted by Fernando León de Aranoa, is set apart from such other Escobar projects as Netflix’s “Narcos” in that it’s largely told, with the help of clunky voice-over narrative, from the viewpoint of Vallejo (a decked-out Mrs. Bardem, Penélope Cruz) and her romance-gone-wrong with Escobar.

The action, set between 1981 and the drug lord’s 1993 death at the hands of Colombian National Police, hits key points in Escobar’s reign of terror, including the cash-and-cocaine-crazy heyday of his omnipotent cartel, a fraught stint in politics, threats of extradition to the U.S. and his messy downfall, all punctuated with its share of look-away violence (that attack dog scene — yikes!).

Peter Sarsgaard is ill-used as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent trailing Escobar.

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‘Loving Pablo’

MPAA Rating: R, for strong violent content, some sexuality, language and drug use.

Running time: 2 hours, 3 minutes.

In English and Spanish with English subtitles.

Playing: AMC Sunset 5, West Hollywood. Also on VOD

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