sat 20/04/2024

Griselda, Netflix review - Sofía Vergara excels as the Godmother of cocaine trafficking | reviews, news & interviews

Griselda, Netflix review - Sofía Vergara excels as the Godmother of cocaine trafficking

Griselda, Netflix review - Sofía Vergara excels as the Godmother of cocaine trafficking

How Colombia's Griselda Blanco brought vice to Miami

Griselda (Sofía Vergara) with Rivi (Martín Rodríguez) and Amilcar (José Zúñiga)Netflix

When Colombian drug potentate Pablo Escobar made his comment that “the only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named Griselda Blanco,” he ensured that Ms Blanco would achieve immortality in the annals of crime. Netflix’s new series about Blanco, starring and produced by Sofía Vergara, claims to depict Blanco’s life “as faithfully as possible”, though that famous line “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend” feels a bit nearer the mark.

Blanco’s tangled biography has been considerably simplified for this Netflix version, but what emerges is a lurid, high-octane ride packed with sex, drugs, rock’n’roll – or more accurately, disco – and some spectacularly hideous violence, as Griselda flees with her children from an abusive relationship in Colombia and heads for Miami.

Here, she gets a bit of help from her old friend Carmen (Vanessa Ferlito), who’s trying to cut her own ties with the drug cartels by going straight and running a travel agency. Griselda, on the other hand, has arrived in Florida with a kilo of cocaine salvaged from her previous life in Medellin, with which she proposes to launch her own narcotics operation.

Her climb to the top of the Miami drugs racket – “I want the city, all of it!” she declares at one point – is hard and painful, but Griselda understands that a “no prisoners” approach is the only way to succeed. One of the show’s dominant themes is how Griselda has to battle against the brutal macho attitudes of the men who rule the drugs trade, though she displays some girl-power ingenuity by recruiting a squad of Colombian prostitutes to carry cocaine through Customs hidden inside bespoke padded bras.

Still, it might be considered perverse to argue that women deserve equal opportunities to commit mass slaughter and world-record drug trafficking. As a kind of slightly artificial-feeling balance, Griselda’s story is counterpointed against that of Detective June Hawkins (Juliana Aidén Martinez, pictured above with Gabriel Sloya), as she struggles against institutional sexism in the Miami police department. It’s Hawkins’s investigative insights that set the cops on Griselda’s trail.

The sleaze, glitz and quasi-Caribbean ambience of Miami in the late Seventies and Eighties have been exploited before in, for instance, Michael Mann’s Miami Vice TV series and Brian de Palma’s Scarface. The progress of the latter’s protagonist, Al Pacino’s Tony Montana, from hoodlum on the make to drug-crazed psychopath and megalomaniac, isn’t too far removed from Griselda’s trajectory here, as she moves from hiring a private army of Cuban exiles (the so-called “Marielitos”) and obliterating her business rivals via explosives or Uzi sub-machine guns to finding out the hard way that it’s lonely at the top.

Her empire expands hugely, but so do her ego, paranoia and jealousy. Matters come to a toxic climax when she throws a birthday party for her husband Dario (Alberto Guerra), and suffers a crack-induced brainstorm where she trusts no-one and wants to kill various members of her entourage (pictured above, Griselda gets hands-on).

Vergara, barely recognisable from her portrayal of Gloria in Modern Family thanks to various prosthetic tweaks, carries the drama with impressive poise. A cast of mostly latin actors, plus a string of dancefloor hits from the likes of Miami Sound Machine, Boney M, Umberto Tozzi, David Bowie and many more, give the production a stamp of steamy tropical authenticity. Which doesn’t mean that it’s all true, obviously.

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