What a weird and wonderful collection of characters actor Benicio del Toro is putting together.
By Chris Wallace
From his garbling and gangly con Fenster in The Usual Suspects to the roommate and accidental philosopher Benny in Basquiat, to Dr. Gonzo in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, to Sauncho Smilax in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice last year, del Toro’s oddballs are the oddest and bestest.
His heavier roles—a recovering addict in both Susanne Bier’s Things We Lost in the Fire and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams, an asthma-choked revolutionary in Soderbergh’s Che, and a morally tested Tijuana cop in Traffic, for which he won an Oscar—are moody masterpieces. But for a guy who got his big break as the youngest Bond baddie in the Timothy Dalton-era Living Daylights, villainy may be his strongest suit.
Del Toro’s latest part, the Colombian coke lord Pablo Escobar in Escobar: Paradise Lost, is a chilling Cheshire cat, seething through his smile with charisma and menace. It may be his best work to date, adding another chapter (along with Traffic, Oliver Stone’s Savages, and Denis Villeneuve’s forthcoming Sicario) to his series of films about the drug trade.