Amazon original series zerozerozero based on the book by Robert Saviano

Treachery is the name of the game in ZeroZeroZero, a multinational series on Amazon Prime that follows the harrowing journey of a cocaine shipment from purchase to delivery, crossing continents along the way. Starting in Italy, ‘Ndrangheta boss Don Minu (Adriano Chiaramida) climbs out of his underground bunker to take a meeting with the other local bosses in the woods. He announces that he is purchasing 5 tons of cocaine from Mexico for them to sell, and he needs their buy-in money. They pay, but Stefano (Giuseppe De Domenico), his grandson, burns the money so it never gets to the Mexicans. In Mexico, the special forces are fighting the cartels, which jeopardizes the operation, but there is a mole among the soldiers, allowing the cartel to scuttle their busts. In New Orleans, Edward Lynwood (Gabriel Byrne), who owns the shipping company that transports the cocaine from Mexico to Italy, decides to front the money to the Mexicans, because they trust Don Minu. This is simply the set-up. Where it goes from here gets bonkers. ZeroZeroZero is based on the book by Robert Saviano, which you can buy here. (affiliate link) Saviano also wrote the book Gomorrah, (affiliate link) which was later turned into a successful series. ZeroZeroZero shares the pacing, complexity, suspense and character development of Gomorrah.

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The Buyers

Don Minu has been driven, presumably by authorities, to living “in a hole” below a goat farm. In actuality, it’s a pretty sophisticated bunker, with tunnels and escape hatches. His reputation has taken a hit, and he feels the need to put product back on the local market to stimulate the economy and maintain his power. His grandson, Stefano, is ostensibly his right-hand man, but Stefano hates Don Minu, and tries to ruin the deal by burning the money that is supposed to go to the Mexican suppliers. “I can’t wait to feed him to the pigs,” Stefano says. But Don Minu is a formidable opponent, and there are others who are eyeing the top spot as well.

The Shippers

What Stefano did not count on was the Lynwoods. Edward, the patriarch, runs the shipping company with his daughter Emma (Andrea Riseborough). Because of their long-standing relationship with Don Minu, Edward decides to front the money to the Mexicans, figuring Don Minu is good for it. Emma would like to run a legitimate company, but Edward explains that the cocaine shipping literally keeps them in business. Emma’s brother Chris (Dane DeHaan) doesn’t do much but tag along with Edward. He has Huntington’s disease, which is not yet active, but because their mother had it, they all know how it ends. When tragedy strikes, Chris is forced to step up and take an important role in the business.

The Sellers

I admit that the Mexican story is the most confusing in ZeroZeroZero, but I’ll take a crack at it. The Italians and the Lynwoods are working with the Leyra brothers (Victor Huggo Martin and Flavio Medina), who are narcotraffickers in Monterrey, Mexico. There is so much corruption in Mexico that it’s hard to sort out who is betraying who. The special forces are tactical soldiers that fight the cartels. They are surveilling the Leyra’s operation, and are close to busting them in action, but a mole in the forces, Manuel (Harold Torres), alerts them to the bust, and they escape. Manuel insists that his actions are guided by God, but really it’s the other G-word, greed. Manuel is juggling a lot-his loyalty to his fellow soldiers, his faith, and his work as a mole for the cartels. I frankly don’t trust him at all.

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Our Take on ZeroZeroZero

ZeroZeroZero grabbed me right out of the gate with its cinematic feel and excellent performances.  Each episode visits all three plot lines, developing the main characters along the way. The cocaine itself becomes a character, and I find myself rooting for it to get to its destination unharmed. By the end of the second episode, I was fully invested in the series, thanks to its quick pace, stomach churning suspense and fascinating locales. There were times when I felt a little lost in the bureaucracy of betrayal, in both Italy and Mexico, but I didn’t mind. If you like a complex story that’s beautifully produced and perfectly paced, ZeroZeroZero is for you.

Fun fact: the series gets its name from the designation of the purest, whitest flour in the world. The terminology has been co-opted by narcotraffickers referring to pure cocaine.

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