John Jairo Velasquez is a celebrity of sorts in his native Colombia. Legions of fans approach him with open arms, and smile from ear to ear as they snap their selfies while standing by his side. The motives behind their excitement and admiration are dubious at best, because Velasquez is one of the most notorious professional killers in the country's history. Escobar's Hitman explores the trail of destruction he left in his wake, and the perplexing realities of his life today.
In the 1980s, as crime swept through and decimated the Colombian landscape, drug kingpin Pablo Escobar reigned supreme. Velasquez, or "Popeye" as he was more widely known in criminal circles, was one of the kingpin's top-ranking thugs during this time. He claims to have murdered over 250 people and arranged the demise of thousands of others as a trusted member of the Escobar regime.
Velasquez recounts the extent of these crimes, including the indiscriminate shooting of policemen and the bombing of assorted politicians and government authorities. "I feel like my soul is dead," he admits. Indeed, his recollections are tinged with a disturbing sense of wistful nostalgia. He seems completely unrepentant. Yet, he also knows that he's been given a second chance. After serving a 23 year stint in prison, he is now a free man.
He's determined to make the most of his infamy, and seize the legitimate opportunities that have awaited him since his release. He's authored two books on his time spent working alongside Escobar, become a vocal critic of the political scene, and even dabbled in motion picture production. People of influence are anxious to rub shoulders with him, and to share his unique life experiences with others in the form of entertainment.
He might enjoy a morbid and adoring fan base throughout his homeland, but he also has his fair share of detractors. The film shines an equal spotlight on them - his victims - as they discuss the unimaginable horrors they endured under his savagery.
Escobar's Hitman is a curious and fascinating portrait of a paradoxical figure, and it forces you to question the morality of those who seem to covet his brand of notoriety.