One of the main messages of Griselda, about the titular real-life female druglord, is that appearances can be deceiving. But in the case of this very watchable drugland drama, they absolutely aren’t. It’s exactly what it looks like.

For starters, Griselda comes from the creators of Narcos, which chronicled the criminal exploits of infamous cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. Then there’s the opening quote from Escobar that flits up on-screen ahead of episode one: “The only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named Griselda Blanco.” Add to that a cliched beachfront backdrop of late 1970s Miami (think Scarface but with even louder shirts) and it’s pretty clear what Netflix is going for here.

Initially co-running a lucrative narcotics racket in Medellín, Colombia, Blanco’s story starts with the murder of her partner and second husband, Alberto. Fearing reprisals from his bigger, badder brother, she packs up the house and their three sons before scarpering 1500 miles to South Beach. Holed up there with an old girlfriend, Griselda (played by Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara) hatches a plan to become the first “lady narco” and rule as the city’s new queen of coke. For that to happen, she’ll have to convince every sexist blow dealer in the zip code to take her seriously – as well as outwit a determined rookie detective who dogs her every footstep.

Griselda Blanco was a druglord in late 1970s and 1980s Miami. CREDIT: Netflix

For Vergara, this is a milestone gig. Since taking on the part of eccentric Colombian housewife Gloria in Modern Family, a role which earned her four Emmy nominations across 11 years, she’s struggled to take the next step. There have been cameo appearances (The Simpsons, Family Guy), supporting roles in movies (Machete Kills, Jon Favreau’s Chef), and a buddy comedy with Reese Witherspoon (Hot Pursuit), though nothing particularly notable. She’s often underestimated. Only last week a male talkshow host mocked her accent live on-air, leading to a rightfully grumpy Vergara asking how many Emmys he’d been nominated for. Griselda probably won’t help her add to that tally, yet Vergara’s natural matriarchal charms and compelling screen presence make her the perfect fit to play a character who snuggles up to her kids one moment, and decapitates bad guys the next.

Unfortunately, she’s let down by a rather stale script. Formulaic and predictable, you’ll find yourself guessing key plot twists far ahead of time. When the inevitable territory war kicks off, it soon descends into a foot race from house to house as Griselda’s henchman splatter the brains of her enemies across as many walls as possible. More often than not, the hits go wrong – this is frequently held back from the viewer and revealed later on in a way that is both annoying and underwhelming. Not to worry though, because Griselda will sneak off for a ciggy break where she’ll devise another clever scheme to save the day. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

For fans of Narcos and its spin-off Narcos: Mexico, this will probably not matter. There’s enough fun to be had in watching Blanco outfox her male counterparts, their egos imploding in satisfying style, to distract from the general lack of new ideas. And a pleasing soundtrack stuffed with disco anthems from Boney M and Donna Summer does a good job of putting you back in that familiarly vibrant world. Griselda clearly knows its audience, and they’ll hoover it up like a line of gak.

‘Griselda’ streams on Netflix from January 25

The post ‘Griselda’ review: don’t cross Sofia Vergara’s vicious Miami drug mama appeared first on NME.


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