In stark contrast to the hard-hitting TRAFFIC, which is constantly on
message, Ted Demme's BLOW takes an entertaining, soap opera approach to the
world of drug trafficking.
Based on the true story of drug trafficker George Jung, the movie goes from
his childhood to his 60 year incarceration in prison. In a stretch, Johnny
Depp plays George, who has said in interviews that he was ugly but that with
his money and drugs, he could easily attract all of the beautiful women he
wanted. Not until the end when he is buried in prosthetics does Depp look
anything other than terrific. As always, his acting is dead-on even if he
has trouble looking anything other than great. George confesses that "my
ambitions far exceeded my talents," something that clearly doesn't apply to
Growing up in Massachusetts, George's childhood is shaped by his
cold-hearted mother (Rachel Griffiths), who always complains about his
father (Ray Liotta) not making enough money. Even though he works long
hours, seven days a week, his father goes bankrupt. "Money isn't real,
George," his father tells him after he loses it all. "It doesn't matter.
It seems like it does, but it doesn't." George, on the other hand, gets a
completely different message than the one intended and vows never to be poor
again, no matter what it takes.
When George grows up, he leaves for the beaches of sunny California, where
everyone is stoned and all of the bikini-clad women seem to be stewardesses.
He takes up with one, Barbara (Franka Potente, RUN LOLA RUN), whom he soon
begins to use as a mule, carrying drugs from California to the colleges on
the east coast. A decidedly funny Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee Wee Herman)
chews up the scenery as Derek Foreal, George's local drug source and a
flamboyant, gay hairdresser. When George moves up to the major leagues of
the drug trade, he employees Derek as his west coast distributor. "It's
going to take longer to count the money than it did to sell it [the drugs],"
Derek remarks after their first really big deal.
Once busted for dealing hundreds of pounds of pot, George is sentenced to a
couple of years at Danbury prison, where he learns more sophisticated
criminal skills. As he puts it, "I went in with a Bachelors of Marijuana
and went out with a Doctorate in Cocaine." As George moves up the drug food
chain and the decades change, the clothes, which are a lot of fun, keep
changing with the times.
Being in at the early stage of such a hugely lucrative endeavor, George
becomes so rich that he literally runs out of room to store his greenbacks.
At one point, he tells us in narration, he controlled the majority of all of
the cocaine in the United States.
Prominently and beautifully featured on the film's poster, Penélope Cruz
(WOMAN ON TOP) doesn't show up until well into the second half. Playing an
obnoxious woman who quickly becomes George's loud-mouthed cokehead of wife,
she looks wonderful while trying to act and look bad. Cruz is just
constitutionally incapable of looking bad. She does convincingly play a
Although it is an easy movie to enjoy, it isn't especially challenging or
insightful. The best part is the father-daughter relationship between
George and Kristina (Emma Roberts), whom he wants desperately to be with.
Although it receives only a modest amount of screen time, it is their scenes
together that most give humanity to Depp's characterization of George and to
the movie itself.
BLOW runs a little too long at 2:02. It is rated R for pervasive drug
content and language, some violence and sexuality and would be acceptable
for high school seniors and older.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes