Review: “ZeroZeroZero” is a compelling yet flawed global narcothriller


Courtesy of StudioCanalTV

Ver Lumod

“ZeroZeroZero,” the new limited series from Amazon Prime Video, is a globetrotting crime thriller that’s undeniably addictive, for better or worse.

Based on the novel of the same name by Italian novelist Roberto Saviano (who also wrote the Italian crime drama “Gomorrah,”) the show centers on the intricate process of a drug deal from a Mexican drug cartel to the Italian organized crime syndicate known as ‘Ndrangheta.’ However, what should have been a simple transaction becomes a dangerous odyssey of sorts as body counts and double-crosses pile up on both sides. Meanwhile, mediating the whole deal is the Lynwoods, a shipping family based in New Orleans who is hell bent on making sure the deal is alive and kicking.

“ZeroZeroZero” takes its cue from “Rashomon” and alternates between the three major arcs separately. While this storytelling approach is certainly innovative, it is a headache for the discerning binge watcher, who has foolishly found his next “Narcos” fix and now finds himself lost in translation. And with good reason too, as the numerous characters and smaller threads populating in and out of the show’s deadly rat race weave in and out without any discerning depth. For example, ruthless Mexican special forces soldier Manuel, played by Harold Torres, devotes himself to a church that’s implied to be fanatical, yet it never pays off in the long run. The argument that they are merely spokes in the wheel rings hollow as the viewer watches with detached interest as a result.

But that’s not to say that the show doesn’t have a compelling cast of characters. Torres steals the spotlight as the fearsome Manuel, who instigates a conflict in the Mexican drug trade by applying his special forces skills with brutal efficiency. The cold-blooded character is a gripping case study in evil, as he gains more power through the ranks and drains his conscience at the same time. Meanwhile, Andrea Riseborough also stands out as Emma Lynwood, the androgynous daughter of Gabriel Byrne’s Edward who struggles to keep the drug deal afloat. She may also barrel in and out of the whole narrative, but she emerges as the audience’s guide to the whole affair as she treks through eventful sojourns through Africa to closely oversee the precious cargo from Mexico.

On the other hand, there are also some casting blunders. One case in point is Dane DeHaan, who stars as Emma’s brother Chris, who is deemed unsuitable for the family business due to a frustratingly vague family disease that threatens to engulf him. While this piece of backstory enables him to act his heart out by screaming and tearing up rooms, it ultimately does nothing to advance the story. Sure, characterization is essential, but it doesn’t make DeHaan’s character interesting in the slightest.

“ZeroZeroZero” is visually arresting thanks to flawless direction from “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” helmer Stefano Sollima, as well as Janus Metz and Pablo Trapero. Gorgeous shots of the Italian countryside, the African desert, and the metropolis of Mexico act as a counterpoint to the thrilling car chases, shootouts, and violent deaths that populate the show. While the visual touches may inevitably make it uninteresting, it manages to introduce a world rich with interconnectivity. Additionally, the accompanying music from Scottish band Mogwai evokes an intensity within “ZeroZeroZero” that makes it so enthralling.

Within its mechanical focus on the drug trade, the show thematically talks about the allure and downside of power. Whether consolidating it through ruthless measures or making an audacious decision to save the business, the inevitability of bodies piling up is always something to be considered. After all, it’s just business, as the show’s final scene can attest. As one character says in a voiceover, “Cocaine is one hell of a business.”

To watch “ZeroZeroZero,” click here.