Karl Puschmann: Is Neon’s violent new cocaine crime-drama addictive viewing?

Karl Puschmann: Is Neon’s violent new cocaine crime-drama addictive viewing?



It was a bit of a shock to return to the grim real world after a couple of weeks of super-sized, super-heroic entertainment.

In the past three weeks, I’ve been wowed by the high-flying action of Marvel’s Falcon and the Winter Soldier, amused by Bruce Willis’ serious sci-fi flick Cosmic Sin, survived the four-hour endurance test of the surprisingly good yet indulgent Zack Snyder’s Justice League and whooped at the city-destroying mayhem of the stupidly fun Godzilla vs Kong.

These movies and shows were a sugar rush of spectacle and a shot of pure escapism. To borrow the words of director Martin Scorsese, they’ve been the entertainment equivalent of riding a high-speed rollercoaster at a theme park.

Fun, but now my brain was starting to feel giddy. It was time to get off the ride. It was time to get real. And Neon’s new crime drama ZeroZeroZero is as real as it gets.

It’s about drugs, which is a topic I know very little about, officer. Specifically, it’s about cocaine, which is a substance I wasn’t particularly aware of and had to google, your honour. More precisely it’s about the intricacies of the global supply chain, which is a topic that in any other industry would sound as thrilling as a nice cup of tea and a lie down.

Here, however, the show’s barely started and bullets are flying and people are falling and a voiceover is insisting that this hugely violent and illegal trade is the bedrock of the world’s economy.

Now that’s a claim I’m fairly dubious of but, like I say, I’m no expert on drugs, business or, really, much of anything. But the fellow was particularly insistent on this point, repeating it to various associates throughout the first episode, but this could be because as a shipping magnate he has a vested interest. How vested? $31 million vested.

That’s the total outlay his family has splurged on a new container ship that will transport five tonnes of cocaine from the suppliers in Mexico across the sea to the buyers in Italy and then, presumably, to the nostrils of over-enthusiastic party-goers in the clubs on a Friday night.

The cost of this new ship threatens to bankrupt them if they don’t get their shipping fee from the deal quickly. Greater the risk, greater the reward, as the head of the shipping company reminds his daughter, who is sensibly against the deal.

It’s an unusually high order and that’s because it’s come about in highly unusual circumstances. Essentially, it’s a peace offering from an old mafia Don to the rival families circling. They’ve sensed weakness now that their once-feared rival has been forced into hiding in a hole in a hill. At a meeting in the woods he makes them an offer they can’t refuse, not because it’s spectacularly violent but because the terms are simply too good to pass up; a heap of cocaine at rock-bottom prices.

With all agreeing to pitch in some cash, the order is placed and the region’s peace and stability is left secure. Until later than night when the Don’s grandson decides to take a run at the title. He hijacks the car that’s picking-up the millions from the various families, murders the driver and then burns all the money.

This right-royally screws up the deal and sets off a murderous domino effect that has consequences that stretches over continents.

While all this is happening, the packing facility in Mexico has problems of its own. The cartel who runs it is being hunted by a renegade group of Narcos cops. If the cops didn’t have a traitor in their midst the cartel would have been busted long ago. But as they do they’re instead involved in a deadly game of cat and mouse and high-speed pursuits and civilian fatalities.

The show masterfully weaves these three very different narratives together despite the vast ocean separating their stories. It paints a grim, violent and high-stakes picture of an industry that you really wouldn’t want to be a part of. And will likely lead to an aversion to pigs going forward …

I’m willing to bet that most people don’t really think about, or care particularly, about the true cost of their choice of recreational. Shows like this do a brutal and hard-hitting job of showing that the real price being paid is far more than whatever their dealers are charging per gram.

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