After a decade chewing lumps out of her Colombian accent as Modern Family’s comedy glamourpuss Gloria, it’s easy to see why Sofía Vergara would be keen to get her teeth into a meatier role. Step forward notorious “Cocaine Godmother” Griselda Blanco, very much the yin to Gloria’s yang.
Sporting a dodgy prosthetic-enhanced look designed to ugly down her image – it doesn’t really work, Vergara still looks fabulous, albeit a bit bizarre – Vergara is offered plenty of scope for showing off her dramatic chops in the full-throttle Griselda (Netflix). Careering through a colourful life story littered with broken relationships, fortunes won and lost, deals brokered and broken, and many, many corpses, Vergara gets a full acting fix charting Blanco’s journey from savvy schemer to paranoid contract killer.
But, boy, is it bloody: the body count here is extraordinarily high and there’s the rub. At the start of this six-part series it’s not hard to get on side with Blanco as we meet a much-wronged woman determined to make her mark in the macho, Colombian drug-dealing world. She’s doing it for her kids, she says, she’s doing it for women – hell, she’s even doing it for the downtrodden Latinos she enlists to work for her. So we’re along for the ride.
But as Blanco rises to the top, becoming hooked on the buzz of ruling the corrupt roost, her ruthless nature rises to the surface. She’s doing it for pure greed – with just a sniff of revenge – and anyone who gets in her way has a nasty habit of winding up six-feet under. We’ve been rooting for a genuinely nasty piece of work.
Griselda is essentially a companion piece to Narcos, the acclaimed Netflix series charting the career of another drug legend, Pablo Escobar. Creative team Doug Miro and Ingrid Escajeda clearly know their double-dealing turf, adeptly navigating us through a shoot-‘em-up world that feels both exhausting and empty as the rival baddies keep stirring the killing pot.
The odd bit of comedy brings much needed light to the shade – a Spanish version of Laura Branigan’s 1980s classic Gloria cheekily pops up on the soundtrack as Blanco cruises down the freeway – but while Vergara gives it her all, she can never make us truly care about a character so morally hollow at the core. For all its highs, Griselda is ultimately a bit of a downer.
Griselda is on Netflix now