An uneven and tonally askew docuseries that attempts to explore the drug trade from both sides of the border — mostly with played-out network TV tricks.
The drug trade is — along with true-crime murder-mysteries — among Netflix’s favorite subjects, and so it should come as no surprise that Narcoworld: Dope Stories is about what you’d expect. Among the already crowded thumbnails, the only ways in which this four-part docuseries stands out are faintly perplexing: its wavering tone and its oddly lopsided focus, both belying any claims of an even-handed depiction of the worldwide narcotics industry.
Those four episodes visit different places and concern different drugs, but they’re all united in a stagey, sensationalized style that leaves its more educational elements underserved. Lots of tricks borrowed from network shows crop up to expected effect, lending ostensibly serious stories an insincere sensibility.
In some ways, Narcoworld: Dope Stories seems like a docuseries about drug dealers somewhat aimed at drug dealers, rife as it is with a vaguely celebratory undercurrent and a focus on their exploits that it never quite manages to share equally with the authorities whose job is to thwart them. The whole show feels similarly muddled, not just in focus but in tone, style, and theme, never quite sure of what it’s trying to say or how best to say it. In the competitive streaming landscape, that’s a life-sentence to “Because you watched…” purgatory.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.