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'ZeroZeroZero' is an International Drug Drama That Looks at a Fuller Picture
March 7, 2020  | By David Hinckley

It turns out that serving as the broker between Mexican drug cartels and mob-run drug distributors is about what you'd expect.

Lucrative but risky.

ZeroZeroZero, an international crime series that became available Friday on Amazon Prime, looks at this well-established yet still tense relationship by focusing on the Lynwood family, who have carved out and aggressively protect their middleman role.

Gabriel Byrne plays Edward Lynwood, patriarch of the family and architect of a machine that has no trouble bringing 5,000 packages of cocaine to New York for distribution by the 'NDrangheta, the street-supply arm of Italy's La Piana crime family.

Edward has two kids who, in theory, could help him out – every Dad's dream, right? – but his son, Chris (Dane DeHaan), has Huntington's disease and, since the diagnosis, has been living in a deep depression, focused only on his grim future. Edward, for reasons perhaps partly paternal and partly practical, prefers to keep Chris out of the game.

That leaves business matters mostly in the hands of Emma (Andrea Riseborough), who runs the shipping business from which the Lynwood family nominally makes its money.

As for the real economics, Edward points out to Emma that they make more money in three weeks from shipping one load of cocaine than they would make from 4,000 container ships in a year.

It's one of those "you do the math" things.

Alas, external events keep impacting the business. Over in Italy, Don Minu (Adriano Chiaramida) has apparently been sidelined with some health issues for a while, though he now is ready to come off the disabled list and reassert his control.

That doesn't send quite as much of a shiver through his network of sub-distributors as he had hoped, but it's clear that when Don Minu speaks, everyone else pays attention.

His return, however, has a potential sticking point: his grandson Don Stefano (Giuseppe De Domenico), who seems to be the heir apparent to Don Minu's position in the 'NDrangheta.

Their relationship, on the surface, is respectful and cordial. Underneath, maybe a little less so – plus, of course, Don Stefano has that youth thing on his side. He's a better long-term bet for some other family members and contractors.

And if you were hoping that at least the Mexican cartels have their act together, you've never seen TV's version of the Mexican cartels.

They may know how to amass cocaine, but they're really bad at keeping some of their more emotional employees under control.

Before the first episode of ZeroZeroZero has wrapped, cartel members have triggered a shootout in an open-air market, killing at least one young boy in the crossfire.

The shootout does introduce us to a rare character in ZeroZeroZero: law enforcement. Most notably, we meet Manuel Contreras (Harold Torres), the Mexican army soldier who stands out by finding and trying to help the dying young boy.

In an effort to keep these fraying pieces together, Edward arranges a summit meeting in Mexico, the idea being everyone will shake hands, break bread, and reaffirm this profitable partnership.

What could possibly go wrong?

ZeroZeroZero has action, it has Gabriel Byrne, and it has Andrea Riseborough, three good building blocks. By expanding the usual drug-smuggling story to incorporate all three arms of the system, it has some unique features.

That said, at this point, drug cartel stories have a familiar ring, and ZeroZeroZero doesn't rise far enough above it to become, well, totally arresting.

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