You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Snitch Cartel

Colombia's mid-1990s drug barons get the "Scarface" treatment in "The Snitch Cartel," a snazzy, fast-paced pic that's nonetheless somewhat enslaved by the get-rich-quick and crime-doesn't-pay cliches that finally trip up the lowlife protags.

With: Manolo Cardona, Juana Acosta, Diego Cadavid, Robinson Diaz, Julian Arango, Andres Parra, Tom Sizemore, Kuno Becker, Pedro Aremendariz Jr., Adriana Barraza. (Spanish, English dialogue)

Colombia’s mid-1990s drug barons get the “Scarface” treatment in “The Snitch Cartel,” a snazzy, fast-paced pic that’s nonetheless somewhat enslaved by the get-rich-quick and crime-doesn’t-pay cliches that finally trip up the lowlife protags. Though psychological insight is beyond the film’s reach, helmer Carlos Moreno (the decidedly more arthouse “All Your Dead Ones”) is a pro at delivering surface pleasures of the sexy, energetic and shoot-’em-up varieties. A cameo from Tom Sizemore as a DEA agent, and the true-story angle, could help convince a U.S. distrib to court urban and/or Latino auds, with smallscreen prospects looking especially good.

Based on a book and a local hit TV series that dramatized the same events, “The Snitch Cartel” looks at the drug trade in the mid-’90s, when Colombia produced 80% of the world’s cocaine. The story focuses on the North Valley cartel, which, together with the Medellin and Cali cartels, controlled much of the international cocaine trade. In a bid to stop the drugs from entering the huge American market, the United States signed an extradition agreement with Colombia, which meant all Colombian dealers would end up in American jails, and gave U.S. law-enforcement agencies such as the DEA more leeway in chasing the trade’s international big guns.

The film traces the rise of Martin (Colombian heartthrob Manolo Cardona) and his best bud, Pepe (Diego Cadavid), from small-time crooks to important dealers after they find a way to cut out their Mexican middlemen, personally delivering their goods by plane to the Bahamas and then by speedboat to Miami.

Their meteoric ascent comes with the requisite scenes of infighting and ostentatious displays of the bling-bling riches their newfound wealth can buy. Though the drug barons of the North Valley surround themselves with more than enough scantily clad women to shoot a “Shoah”-length rap video, Martin’s keener on courting his childhood crush, the stunning Sofia (Juana Acosta), as first seen in one of the film’s numerous temporal jumps.

But nothing is made of Martin’s apparently incongruous interest in a steady partner, and the film summarily dismisses Sofia, who has about as much character definition as she has body fat; a scene in which she is practically raped by Pepe is almost glossed over, and her presence at a shootout feels particularly contrived. The pic’s distaff disinterest also extends to Martin’s grandmother, the “other important woman” in his life, but who’s otherwise equally invisible, despite the casting of Mexican acting heavyweight Adriana Barraza in the role.

That said, the film(scripted by Luiso Berdeio, Juan Camillo Ferrand and Andres Lopez) never bores as it proceeds at breakneck speed through the events that finally end up giving the cartel its titular nickname. Sizemore is appropriately imposing as the DEA officer who tries to force the Colombians to accept his “suggestion” of becoming snitches, while Cardona and Cadavid have credible chemistry as the two opportunistic friends who quickly find themselves in a situation far beyond their control.

Widescreen lensing by Mateo Londono is slick and seemingly indebted to Steven Soderbergh, especially in its occasional use of almost monochrome color palettes. Sound and visual effects deliver the expected jolts.

Popular on Variety

The Snitch Cartel


Production: An Onceonce presentation and production. Produced by Manolo Cardona, Juan Carlos Caicedo, Juancho Cardona, Francisco Cardona, Alex Garcia. Directed by Carlos Moreno. Screenplay, Luiso Berdeio, Juan Camillo Ferrand, Andres Lopez, based on the book and TV series by Lopez.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Mateo Londono; editor, Jorge Macava; music, Carlos Siliotto; production designer, Jaime Luna; costume designer, Ximena Bessolo; sound (Dolby Digital), Carlos Lopera; visual effects supervisor, Alejandro Vazquez; casting, Jaime Correa. Reviewed at Palm Springs Film Festival (Awards Buzz), Jan. 7, 2013. Running time: 106 MIN.

With: With: Manolo Cardona, Juana Acosta, Diego Cadavid, Robinson Diaz, Julian Arango, Andres Parra, Tom Sizemore, Kuno Becker, Pedro Aremendariz Jr., Adriana Barraza. (Spanish, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Global Screen Nabs ‘Amazing Maurice,’ Based

    Global Screen Picks Up ‘The Amazing Maurice,’ Based on Terry Pratchett’s Novel (EXCLUSIVE)

    Global Screen has picked up worldwide distribution rights, excluding North America, the U.K. and German-speaking territories, to the English-language animated feature “The Amazing Maurice,” based on a Terry Pratchett novel. The screenplay has been written by Terry Rossio, Oscar-nominated for “Shrek.” Rossio’s credits also include the animated movie “Aladdin” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” [...]

  • Yoji Yamada-directed film is to open

    Tokyo Market: Shochiku Launches Horror, Comedy and Mystery Lineup

    Major Japanese studio, Shochiku has the honor of leading off next week’s Tokyo International Film Festival with its “Tora-san, Wish You Were Here.” The film is a revival of a beloved in-house drama franchise, directed by veteran Yoji Yamada, that is set as the event’s opening night gala presentation. Before that, the company has the [...]

  • The Truth

    Singapore Festival to Focus on Asian Excellence for 30th Edition

    For its 30th edition the Singapore International Film Festival has avoided programming novelty and instead focused on assembling excellence – mostly indie titles — from Asia and further afield. The festival, which previously announced local filmmaker Anthony Chen’s second feature “Wet Season” as its opening night gala presentation, announced the balance of its programming on [...]

  • Isabela Moner Dora the Explorer

    Film News Roundup: Isabela Merced Boards Jason Momoa's 'Sweet Girl' for Netflix

    In today’s film news roundup, Isabela Merced get cast opposite Jason Momoa, “Starbright” gets financing and AFM announces its speakers. CASTING Isabela Merced, formerly Isabela Moner, has come on board to portray the daughter of Jason Momoa in his upcoming revenge thriller “Sweet Girl” for Netflix. Momoa will play a devastated man who vows to [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Seeks to Throw Out Gender Pay Gap Lawsuit

    The Walt Disney Co. is seeking to throw out a lawsuit alleging that women employees are paid less than men, arguing that the suit is too sprawling and unwieldy to handle as a class action. Andrus Anderson LLP filed the suit in April, alleging that Disney’s hiring and pay practices have a discriminatory effect on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content