There is a certain appeal to the “anti-hero”; someone we shouldn’t be rooting for but for some reason or another they are the captivating force that pulls us into the story. Films such as Scarface, American Gangster and Goodfellas all invoke characters in the drug business and even though we know what they are doing is wrong we still want to watch them come out on top; a testament to the storyteller in being able to convey such a strong character that we can see no wrong doing in them. Director Feliz Limardo’s new film Narco Soldiers follows ambitious drug cartel worker Danny as he dreams of living the “big life”.
Danny, played by Rafael Amaya (Queen of the South), and his best friend Teo, played by Octavio Pisano, are low level thugs working for a Dominican drug outfit. A sense of loyalty to their boss Don Toribio, played by Ricardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives), keeps both in line to an extent but their ambitions are heightened by Teo’s girlfriend Marisela, played by Caroline Guerra (Animal Kingdom). Marisela persuades the two friends to go into business for themselves cutting out their competitors: the Columbian & Mexican drug cartels, in forming the first Dominican Republic drug cartel. Laying out that plotline I do not think it is hard to piece together what follows next; even with a predictable story though there’s enough to keep your attention. Unfortunately one of the flaws in the film falls on its lead in Amaya. Danny is the main character throughout and we have to be on his side; it doesn’t even matter that within five minutes he kills off an FBI informant but sadly Amaya didn’t have the charisma to pull off the role.
Danny could be a very intriguing character due to his loyalty to Don and the complex Bonnie & Clyde relationship he has with Marisela behind Teo’s back but Amaya plays the role with a bland emptiness. The twist in telling this story is the added narration of Marisela who isn’t introduced until later as the voice of what has been happening thus far. We later realize it is her story and the majority of the film is playing catch up to the film’s epic showdown. The problem with this is although portrayed strongly by Guerra the character isn’t fleshed out enough and falls into genre stereotypes. What the film lacks in character development and execution Limardo makes up for in action sequences. Enough violence is sprinkled throughout to keep watching and let you forget about how easy it was for four people to start up their own cartel. Although there wasn’t enough meat on the bone to hold up to other drug film classics Limardo’s vision of an up and coming cartel has enough punch to get you to the end.
2 out of 5