Opening in the summer of 1991, young Canadian surfer Nick (Hutcherson) is called into a cartel's hideout and tasked with committing a murder on the drug lord's behalf in Ituango. Speeding off on his mission along the dark road and hardly able to keep his breath, Nick is stuck in a conundrum that only becomes clear as it flashes back to a few years earlier. Arriving on the Colombian coast to run a surf camp with his eager brother (Corbet), Nick meets the beautiful Maria (Traisac), and quickly falls for her, before meeting her uncle, Pablo Escobar (del Toro). Escobar is a Colombian senator. The sunny beaches provide a notable visual contrast to the murkier scenes that follow, as Nick gradually realizes the extent of Escobar's power. At social gatherings, Escobar's domineering personality leaves Nick in a confused state about his priorities. After a rift develops between Nick and Pablo, Pablo decides to kill Nick. Because Pablo is a politician, he uses the local police to hunt him down and kill him. Benicio del Toro as Pablo EscobarJosh Hutcherson as Nick BradyClaudia Traisac as MariaBrady Corbet as Dylan BradyCarlos Bardem as DragoAna Girardot as AnneAaron Zebede as Pepito TorresFrank Spano as ChristoLaura Londoño as María VictoriaMicke Moreno as Martin
Of the storyline, Di Stefano claimed "the idea came from three sentences [I] heard from a police officer about a real-life young Italian fellow who went to Colombia to meet his brother, somehow became close to the Escobar family, and then got in trouble."
Hutcherson served as an executive producer for the film, alongside Andrea Di Stefano, assisting with casting and blocking shots.
On December 17, 2012, it was rumoured that Josh Hutcherson was in talks to be cast in the leading role. The next day it was confirmed he was cast as Nick Brady, a 'surfer dude' who visits his brother in Colombia and falls in love with a local woman named Maria only to discover she's the niece of the highly dangerous narcoterrorist. On March 25, 2013, Brady Corbet was cast as Hutcherson's character brother, Dylan Brady.
Principal photography was expected to begin in Panama in March 2013. Filming was initially expected to last a month and a half, finishing on May 30, 2013. However, it was rumored filming was also conducted during June and July 2013.
Escobar: Paradise Lost made its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2014. It also screened at the 2014 Telluride Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival, Rome Film Festival, and Zurich Film Festival.
The film was released in France, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates. It was going to be theatrically released in the United States on January 16, 2015, but the release has been delayed to the second quarter of the year. It will be released on July 9, 2015, in Germany. The film had a limited release in the United States on June 26, 2015.
On July 14, 2014, a teaser trailer was released. In August 2014, four new stills were released. Official trailers were released on September 3, 2014 and November 13, 2014.
Escobar: Paradise Lost was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on March 19, 2015 in France and April 15, 2015 in Australia and New Zealand. Further DVD and Blu-Ray releases include in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands on September 21, 2015.
During its opening in France, the film debuted with a weekend total of $601,554. Its opening weekend in Spain brought in $620,845 and $79,637 in the United Arab Emirates. As of September 7, 2015, the film has grossed $3,562,536 in the six foreign markets the film has been released in.
Domestically, the film earned $195,792 during its first two weeks from its limited theatrical release in June and July 2015.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 52% approval rating, based on reviews from 41 critics, with an average score of 5.8/10. Metacritic gives the film a score of 56 out of 100, based on reviews from 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
At the Telluride Film Festival, Escobar: Paradise Lost received a generally positive critical response. Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy called the film "an absorbing and suspenseful drug trade drama" along with citing that "del Toro’s presence, like Brando’s in The Godfather, looms over everything that happens here". McCarthy also stated that "Di Stefano shows some real directorial chops in the film’s central and impressively extended action-suspense sequence". However, "the romantic interplay between Nick and Maria gets a bit tiresome and redundant due to the fact that they’re both so extremely nice and agreeable; Nick’s naivete and goody two-shoes Canadianism (he stresses that he’s not a Yank) also prove wearisome".
Writing for Indiewire, Eric Kohn gave the film a B and praised the performances of del Toro and Hutcherson writing that del Toro "turns Escobar into a subdued terror whose ability to order murders with ease provides the movie with its chief source of dread". While Hutcherson "imbues the character with a believability that transcends the script's limitations". However, Kohn also criticised the film as it "fails to develop the rest of its characters as well as it does for its two central men. The screenplay is similarly marred by formula, lagging whenever it hits certain high melodramatic notes, and reminding us of the stakes in play with mopey, dime-store gravitas".