ZeroZeroZero may be aptly named if the title points to the resulting good in the worlds it so bleakly depicts: those of Italian organised crime and Mexican drug cartels. The action begins near Reggio Calabria where an ageing crime boss Don Minu La Piana (Adriano Chiaramida, pictured) proposes to unify rival families, which, as he assures them, he will do once he has secured a multi-million-dollar cocaine shipment. A failed assassination attempt on Don Minu – partly the brainchild of his own grandson Stefano (Giuseppe de Dominico) – suggests a not-so-subtle opposition to the plan.
On the other side of the world, the cocaine readies to depart, courtesy of the Mexican Leyras cartel and a crooked New Orleans shipping firm headed by Edward Lynwood (Gabriel Byrne), supported by his daughter Emma (Andrea Riseborough), while son Chris (Dane DeHaan) watches from the sidelines. After Edward is shot in a sting operation in Monterrey, he tells Emma to keep Chris out of the dirty side of the business, but it’s no use. Chris insists on boarding the ship that will take the cargo to Italy. What he doesn’t know is that the master of the vessel has been bribed by Don Minu’s enemies to prevent the drugs from reaching their destination.
Meanwhile, in Monterrey, Manuel Contreras (Harold Torres), a soldier gone bad who works for the Leyras cartel, decides to create his own elite army with one goal: to wipe out the Leyras family and corner the local drug market. With a lightning-quick efficiency, likely possible only in a country with a large population of youths willing to do anything, Manuel begins a reign of terror to gain control over the city. Even as he does so, Emma and Chris labour to deliver the cocaine shipment to Don Minu, whose rivals remain determined to kill him before it arrives.
The plot complexities of ZeroZeroZero demand some attention and, more confusing still, are complemented by shifting of points of view, where pivotal events are re- enacted from the opposing perspectives of various characters. The results, however, are fascinating but difficult to watch, revealing as they do the black-hearted corruption of some very powerful and ruthless people. You may not want to watch ZeroZeroZero twice, but it’s likely you won’t regret seeing it once.