OT- 30 for 30 "The Two Escobars"

Submitted by 03 Blue 07 on June 22nd, 2010 at 11:54 PM

I just finished watching the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary "The Two Escobars," and I thought it was the best so far. I know a lot of people liked the edition "June 17, 1994," which was the last in this series, and "The U," which was my favorite before tonight's edition (for its pure comedy),  but for me, this one was incredible.

It brought about emotions of happiness (in the beginning, for the team), anger, and sadness (if you saw it, these are easy to figure out). I think it's pretty rare for a sports documentary about a team I don't follow in a country I've never visited to elicit such emotions in this viewer. Although the stuff at the end about "this would've never happened if Pablo was alive" wasn't necessarily my cup of tea (not that there isn't some truth to that idea), I still thought the piece was well-crafted, detailed,  thorough, and very heart-wrenching. I especially liked the fact that we got to hear from the players on the team, the coach, and other involved parties in-depth, with hardly any other narrative added or needed. They had excellent source material.

Anyone else see it and have any thoughts?



June 22nd, 2010 at 11:59 PM ^

I agree with your review.  I was previously familiar with the story of Pablo from a History Channel doc, but this was a new angle on that story.  I really appreciate that the filmmakers stayed out of the way and let those who experienced the events tell the story.  I couldn't help but feel for the players as they were outlining how things fell apart once they got to the World Cup, both on and off the field.

03 Blue 07

June 23rd, 2010 at 12:05 AM ^

I mean, someone breaking into their hotel in L.A., and programming death threats (presumably in Spanish) onto their TV screens? I mean, What. The. Fuck.? That was absurd. And the fact that one of the players' brothers was murdered after their opening loss? And then the death threat to the coach if he didn't pull the one player? I mean, I actually REMEMBER the 1994 game between the U.S. and Colombia, as I was a 12 year old. The fact that all of that was going on behind the scenes is just awful.


June 23rd, 2010 at 12:10 AM ^

I was around the same age too at that time and remember the game as well, so that was an interesting aspect of it for me, too...  At the time, I had no idea about all the stuff with Colomibia, and wouldn't have necessarily understood it (all the violence, creime, turmoil in their homeland) at that age and so looking back on it now and seeing it through those eyes was kinda crazy.


June 23rd, 2010 at 12:04 AM ^

I was just about to post about this, glad I saw your post as it saved a double thread start.

Totally agree, it was incredibly, incredibly good.  I've never seen any of the other 30 for 30s, but, I want to go back and re-watch some of the others because if they're anywhwere near as good as this one, then they must be worth a view.

Agree about it being quite an emotional roller coaster....  it was a really, really moving story.  The part at the end where Andres Escobar's fiancee and sister quoted his last words from the newspaper article....  Wow.  What a really powerful, touching moment.

Re. what you said about the part near the end where they're talking about how "this wouldn't have happened without Pablo Escobar"...  I didn't like it a whole lot either, but I appreciated that the filmmakers incluced that, because, yes, there is some truth to it.  That, IMO is good documentary filmmaking, that they included things that are controversial and tough to swallow, but are a part of the story nonetheless.  They included the nuances in the story, something which unfortunately is often not done in our soundbite society.

Overall, a great, great film and I highly recommend it to anyone that missed it.


June 23rd, 2010 at 3:41 AM ^

The series has been almost universally great.  The best one before this was (I think) June 17, 1994.  Which I like for the silent critique of the 24 hour news cycle/celebrity obsessed culture that we have now.

I missed The U which was a lot of people's favorite before the last two.  I'd also recommend No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson.  Most of the series is excellent though.  First thing on ESPN I've enjoyed that wasn't live events or PTI in over a decade.

Simmons has been doing podcasts with the directors as they premiere, most of those have been pretty interesting as well.  It was partially his idea (you'll see him listed in the credits to all of them in the "for ESPN" section) to get 30 film makers and give them pretty much total editorial freedom.

The one Steve Nash is doing is the one I'm most curious about.  I've heard of the guy who's the subject of that one, but I don't really know anything about it.

03 Blue 07

June 23rd, 2010 at 12:13 AM ^

And, to be honest, I watch a lot of documentaries (though hardly ever sports-related), I think, compared to your average joe who isn't in any way associated with film/tv/media, etc., and I thought this one was very, very good. And I like how you point out that it was good filmmaking to include that part at the end about Pablo. The filmmakers didn't say it; it was the people who were involved who clearly believe that. So i agree- they did the right thing by including it. And, in a sick way, I think there's some truth to what they say, too. (Granted, my mental comparison is to, say, "The Wire," or other things such as that where there's a power vacuum in an underworld and murders and chaos invariably supposedly rise for a bit until a new order is established). Also, randomly, I don't know how legit those murder rate numbers they showed at the end are. I mean, I'd imagine the murder rate numbers during the los PEPE's/Escobar's reign could plausibly be inflated by the government to support why they're seeking U.S. assistance, and articifically deflated by the same government now to say, "hey, come to Colombia! We're only half as deadly as we used to be!"


June 23rd, 2010 at 12:11 AM ^

It was by far the best one yet, although I am quite partial to Run Ricky, Run. I've been really impressed with the ESPN 30 for 30 series, how many more are they going to make?


June 23rd, 2010 at 12:15 AM ^

I think this was #16, so 14 more.

I peeped the Wikipedia article and there are interesting topics coming up for sure.

Ones that jumped out at me:

"One Night in Vegas" about the night Tupac was shot and his friendship with Mike Tyson

Also one about Steinbrenner's ownership of the Yankees

And one about Jordan's retirement and stint in baseball.


June 23rd, 2010 at 10:55 AM ^

Run Ricky Run made me think totally different about Ricky.  I came away pretty impressed by the way he handled himself and his outlook on life other than football.  Very misunderstood individual.


The 2 Escobars are right up there with it.  The 30 for 30 series has been pretty impressive.  Much better than the typical ESPN movies that they put out.     

Snidely Doo Rash

June 23rd, 2010 at 12:20 AM ^

esobars.  Mind blower of a documentary.  Some of the soccer footage of that team and the settings they played in and the skill level they showed growing up and through the cup process was phenomenal.  94 was the first cup I watched while eating pizza and drinking beer during grad school.  I had no idea how much was going on but I do remember some of the standouts on that team.    

Pretty rough stuff...well worth it.  


June 23rd, 2010 at 12:23 AM ^

If anyone knows where to watch online, please pass along.

Mind boggling that Pablo controlled 80% of the world's cocaine market at one time, good for a cool $25 billion.


June 23rd, 2010 at 2:02 AM ^

It's also coming out on DVD on the 24th.  So if you want you can rent it/buy it then, or save it to your queue on Netflix.  I was pleasantly surprised that a lot of the 30 for 30 films were available for renting off of Netflix.

Glad the OP made a topic about this.  It was a phenomenal documentary.  I kept on pausing my TV and looking at the meter which shows how far along the show was.  I remember thinking repeatedly that there was a lot still left, and being pleasantly surprised.  It wasn't until the end that I realized that this particular one was 2 hours long.  It was that captivating.

03 Blue 07

June 23rd, 2010 at 12:27 AM ^

I'm not sure if any of you guys ever check out Alan Sepinwall's blog, but he's a tv critic (formerly of the Newark Star Ledger) who I enjoy. His review of the documentary is at the link below, along with his review of the "June 17, 1994" documentary I mentioned in the OP:


I actually came across him (Sepinwall) while looking for stuff on "The Wire," and generally tend to agree with his analysis of shows. His favorites are my favorites, mostly, too: He loves "Sons of Anarchy," "Breaking Bad," "Treme," "Mad Men," "Justified," and "Lost." Oh, and he also thinks "The Wire" is the greatest dramatic achievement in television. So yeah, he and I are on the same page on most things tv-related.


June 23rd, 2010 at 1:06 AM ^

The statistic at the end about how the homicide rate has been cut in half since the Pablo Escobar and PEPEs era....Colombia still has the highest homicide rate in the world.  


Also, I really found it interesting to see all that Pablo Escobar did for the people of Colombia and that he was almost as big of a humanitarian as he was a criminal.


June 23rd, 2010 at 1:58 PM ^

Pablo Escobar did some humanitarian things, but let's be clear: he had ulterior motives.  He knew the poor could be easily manipulated to look the other way while he murdered and swindled his way to billionnaire status.  His right-hand man stated matter-of-factly that he'd murdered at least 250 people, and Pablo was apparently even more bloodthirsty.  I felt like the film was playing up his "Robin Hood" status a little too much for awhile, but they balanced it out by making it clear at the end that Colombia is much safer with him gone. 


June 23rd, 2010 at 8:33 AM ^

Is it bad that 99% of what I know about Pablo Escobar comes from Entourage?

I'll have to try to catch this one at some point though... sounds like everyone enjoyed it.


June 23rd, 2010 at 9:08 AM ^

Mind boggling that Pablo controlled 80% of the world's cocaine market at one time, good for a cool $25 billion.

If you're interested, Bruce Porter's book "Blow: How A Small Town Boy Made $100 Million" is pretty good and details how George Jung ended up as a key part of the world cocaine market. The movie is a piece of crap, but the book is good.

They figured out that there were gaps in the radar coverage in between airports, so they could hop around to small landing fields and no one would track where they were coming from or going to. North Carolina was a major gap on the east coast. I was living in a town of 10,000 in eastern NC in 1983 when one of their planes ended up at our county airport with mechanical problems. Too bad for the pilots that it was loaded down with coke.

The son of the local sheriff rode my school bus and he couldn't stop crowing about his dad bringing down a drug kingpin (which is sort of like saying that the security guard who discovered the tape over the door jamb at the Watergate Hotel personally impeached Richard Nixon).


June 23rd, 2010 at 10:00 AM ^

I strongly disagree about the movie being a piece of crap, it's almost definitely in my top 25.  Sounds like you know a lot more about the whole real-life situation though, so I can see why you'd be disappointed with it -- I'm sure the movie just dramatizes everything and doesn't do the real story much justice.


June 23rd, 2010 at 9:15 AM ^

I loved this one as well.  As others have mentioned, this one, the June one (aka OJ), Run Ricky Run, and The U are my four favorites.  The South African rugby episode would probably round out my top five.

What I found interesting, other than the portrayal of Escobar as a god to the people of the slums in Columbia, is that the movie seems to disagree with "Cocaine Cowboys". 

Who was really running the coke trade down in Columbia, Escobar or the woman?  I want to know!

That being said, the movie was really a tale of two stories (as the title suggests), and the filmmakers do an EXCELLENT job transitioning between stories.  I thought the transitions were the most impressive part, actually. 


June 23rd, 2010 at 10:43 AM ^

Sounds like you know a lot more about the whole real-life situation though, so I can see why you'd be disappointed with it -- I'm sure the movie just dramatizes everything and doesn't do the real story much justice.

If you liked the movie, you'll love the book.


June 23rd, 2010 at 11:02 AM ^

Emmanuell Chriqui is another good reason to like "Entourage." And, BTW, this would be a good time to strongly recommend the movie "Women In Trouble." The movie should've been called "Women in their Underwear."

Chriqui plays a bi-sexual prostitute named Bambi who spends the entire movie in chaps and a thong.


June 23rd, 2010 at 1:52 PM ^

I'm not a huge ESPN fan - I find that they play up the "E" part (Entertainment) a little too much -  but I did tune in out of curiosity.  Great film.  I do wonder if Andrés Escobar was truly as saintly as they depicted him, but regardless, it was really compelling.  I'm glad that they added at the end that Colombia has become a much safer country since the heyday of Pablo Escobar and the PEDEs - because for a while it was almost making me sympathetic to the cartels.  It's too bad that Colombian soccer can't get back off the ground, though.