Pros: Easier to watch than Traffic. Penelope Cruz is hot!
Cons: You mean convicts? There are a few of those
The Bottom Line: Winners don't do drugs (that old video game message of the late 80's)
Blow, crack, coke, angel dust, it's a free country, so you're free to call cocaine whatever you like. Same with marijuana and its numerous monikers. Just don't get caught using either of these substances or, in this great, free country of ours, you'll be locked away for a good, long time.
Blow the movie isn't about the drug so much as it's about the guy who supplied the addicts with it back in the early 1980's. It's really sort of ironic that the movie should be called Blow since the film's main character, George Jung (pronounced "young") got his career start by smuggling pot for college stoners in the East.
The second great drug movie to come out in 2001, Blow was, unfortunatly, overshadowed by its brilliant-but-still-overrated predecessor, Traffic. Which really sucks (or maybe blows) because Blow is really the better of the two. I'm not trying to underplay the brilliance of Traffic here, but with all its disturbing realism, Traffic came off as more than heartless. It's the kind of movie that you think is outstanding and think everyone should see... Once. Then you toss it away like a used joint and vow to never sit through it again. Two and a half hours of a confusing drug war are enough, thank you very much, and I doubt I'll be returning.
So then, several months later, an obviously insane Ted Demme says Traffic made money! Drug movies are all the rage now. Lets release Blow and capitalize! And hence, Blow hit the theaters. No thought given that maybe Traffic was successful only because of the star power it was pulling. Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Don Cheadle, Dennis Quaid and countless others starred in Traffic wheras Blow only had Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz, both unbilled, pulling for it. Which movie is the finiky arthouse crowd gonna go see?
But the cast is the only advantage Traffic has over Blow-and if you want to talk talent over box office pull, even that's not an advantage. Traffic was a bloated, relentless and somewhat confusing onslaught of druggies versus politicians. In the end, you didn't really care about who any of the druggies were. Blow, on the other hand, picks a single drug dealer out of the pool and humanises him to such an extent that you're almost tempted to write up a few clever slogans and go picketing for George Jung's release.
But the filmmakers didn't just pick any random dealer. They picked George Jung, possibly the man entirely responsible for the whole 80's war on drugs joke that's so disturbingly portrayed in Traffic. Then, as I said, they portrayed him as a regular, everyday human being who just happened to make an illegal career choice along the line.
George and his best pal Tuna are maybe nine years old when we first meet them. George Jung is a typical American boy from a typical American suburban family. His dad is a working class man who's struggling when his company isn't getting work. His mother is always complaining about the family's lack of funds. She walks out on them occaisionally, but she does it so often that it's lost all meaning. And they both love their son, with dad taking the extra pains to nail life's little quirks into George's head.
But dad takes a bit too long in getting around to the whole money isn't real thing. By the time dad gets around to teaching George this, he's already filed for bankruptcy. And George, not wanting to live like that, takes his mother's side on the issue by heading out the door to sunny California the second his 18th year rolls around, with pal Tuna in tow. But for his love of money, both are too lazy to find jobs. So they decide to make quick money by selling pot to stoners on the beach. Now George's ambition begins to show, and he first expands his operation to the East, then starts smuggling pot over the border himself after he decide's he's fed up with being the middleman.
As a lot of smugglers do at one time or another, George gets busted with some 600 pounds of the stuff and sent to jail. In jail, he meets Diego, who teaches him a bit about cocaine. After hooking up with Diego after his release, he is introduced to Pablo Escobar, who's pretty much the supreme ruler of the whole crack empire. And the two of them go into business together. Crack explodes onto the American scene and Pablo and George begin making make-you-stupid money. George's monotonous narration says that 85 percent of all the crack in the late 70's and early 80's came from them. And George is living the ideal material life: Giant house, fancy cars, coke-addicted but insanely beautiful wife.
But the whole drug industry is filled with cutthroat backstabbers who quite literally stab their friends in the back for one or two extra nickels, and when George's daughter Kristina arrives on the scene, George wants out. Here we witness a remarkable (and perfectly believable) transformation in George as Kristina becomes the center of the universe to him. But he's still under the law, and so the good times can't go on. The Feds raid the house and George descends down a spiral that ends in 1990 or so when he gets busted trying to make one last deal just so he can get a plane to fly his daughter out to California and fix his by-this-time severed relationship with her.
And you get angry when all this happens because of everything that's been going on in George's life by now. His two main partners have been screwing him left and right and his wife is now a psycho who can't kick her drug of choice. And yet Mirtha (wifey dearest) is still the one who gets custody of Kristina. And, most painfully of all, his parents aren't exactly proud of what their only child's been doing to pay the bills. Needless to say, you want George to pull off this last deal and get back to Cali with his daughter. Now George is sitting, rotting in jail hoping for his daughter to come visit sometime, which, we are informed at the end of the film, she still hasn't done.
George is given an extra dimension because of the narration that accompanies the film from start to finish. Although the narration does overshadow the film at times, it's still needed to explain certain onscreen happenings. George himself is portrayed by Johnny Depp, and the whole review up to this point seems to be a testament to his performance-I think pretty highly of it. Sharing Depp's billing are Penelope Cruz as evil wife Mirtha, and a better actress to play the part of the sexy Colombian wife I have yet to see. Since Cruz is Spanish, she even gets the accent right (yeah, look at me, acting like I'd know). The only other actor you'll remember is Ray Liotta as Depp's father. A bit of trivia: Liotta also portrayed a real-life drug dealer, in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas.
So what Blow is really about is the fact that all those evil drug dealers on the streets who get our children addicted to crack are people too.
Although less disturbing than Traffic, Blow can be somewhat disturbing for the simple fact that a guy you're supposed to hate in real life is given another side that makes you sympathize with him. When all is said and done, no matter what you think should happen to George, you'll still feel sorry for him. I wonder if Kristina finally visited him if she saw the film.
I just caught Blow on TV for the first time recently. For the most part it was a pretty good movie. It had an old school Scorsese-esque feel to it, especially with the narration and casting of Ray Liotta, it wasn't quite as foul-mouthed as something like Casino or Goodfellas but it did a good job about telling the tale of the rise of the cocaine cartels in the 70s/80s. After browsing the imdb boards as to it's accuracy regarding it's "based on true events" claim … more
Pros: Johnny Depp with long hair!! Great filming Cons: Too long - hard working guy who can't get ahead The Bottom Line: Good effort by Depp and director, bit off more than they could chew. Great costumes, hair and period feel of the film. Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. There are great moments in this film, primarily of Johnny Depp looking totally cool in 70's era clothes and glasses. … more