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One of the most intriguing movies of 2001. **** (out of four)
Movie-1223 May 2001
BLOW / (2001) **** (out of four)

By Blake French:

I don't think George Jung was a corrupt, sleazy drug smuggler, but, more or less, a young businessman making money to support his family and wild lifestyle. That is what makes Ted Demme's "Blow" different from other drug movies-it does not portray its characters as addicted lowlifes, but as recklessly successful, high powered individuals who simply want to live the American dream. The film is based on the true story of George Jung, whose image went from the average Joe next door, a high-school football star from a small Massachusetts town, to the world's premiere importer of cocaine from Colombia's Medellin cartel, who once supplied the States with over 85% of the total amount of imported cocaine in the 1970's and 80's. "Blow" is one of the best movies of the year.

"Blow" covers a wide range of generations and locations, ranging from the turbulent 60's to the haze of the 80's, and from such areas of the North America like Massachusetts, Florida, Colombia, California, Mexico, New York and Illinois. The time and location span provided the filmmakers with a challenge. The film was shot in a variety of locations in Southern California and in Mexico. "It was a difficult film to schedule and shoot because it had so many different time periods. And since it was the story of a man's life, every scene was fairly brief which meant an incredible number of scenes to be shot," explains executive producer Georgia Kacandes.

Covering so many years in a single film also tests the ability of the film's costume designers and makeup artists. The wardrobes, makeup and hair styles appear authentic and impressive. This movie pays close attention to even some of the most minute of details.

George Jung's motives for pursuing drugs may have been triggered by his family life as a child. His father was a nobody construction worker who often struggled with money and his marriage. In the film, Ray Liotta plays George's poor but content father, with the versatile Rachel Griffiths as his bitter, unhappy mother. George vows to never live his life in poverty, no matter what.

He moves to California as a young adult where selling marijuana supports his independent lifestyle. Paul Reubens and Ethan Suplee play George's drug-dealing comrades. Eventually, the authorities send him to prison for a while, where he meets Diego Delgado (Jordi Molla). An insider in Colombia's rising drug trade, this man educates George about the profits of selling cocaine. After serving his time, Jung becomes partners with Pablo Escobar (Cliff Curtis), the billionaire godfather of international cocaine trafficking.

"Blow" displays a consistent and detailed portrait of the spectacular rise, and dramatic fall, of Jung and his travel towards turning powder cocaine into American's biggest drug problem. Ted Demme's direction is vivid, determined, and stylish. He reportedly conducted many interviews with the real life George Jung, as he makes very clear the early high life, and the dangerous reality of a drug smuggler's everyday lifestyle. Demme is careful to stay away from frequent potential distractions, like the drug use, side characters, family issues, and romantic interests. This is a vivid narrative of a very interesting character. It does display a message about drugs that we have seen before, but never in this stylishly innovative light.

Laced with amusing detail and probing awareness, "Blow" defies the usual road of drug movies and provides us with tension and interest from Jung's many experiences-risky border crossings, ferocious consultation, unexpected deception, the persistence of the authorities, and unconquerable temptations. But untimely the film shows the true tragedy of losing your dreams to greed and drugs.

Johnny Depp proves once again what a triumphant, adaptable actor he can be. He portrays George Jung with the perfect amount of greed, style, confusion, pride, and desperation. The real George Jung is in a prison cell in New York. Without possibility of parole, Jung's release date is scheduled for 2015. Depp acknowledged the responsibility that comes with dramatizing a true individual, but also the responsibility of the director. "I knew Ted was committed to the film, but I didn't understand how deeply committed he was to the real George."

"Blow" becomes one of the most intriguing movies of 2001, but it even suffers in comparison to the incomprehensible achievement director Darren Aronofsky accomplished last year with his disturbingly real display of the downward spiral of four drug addicts in "Requiem for a Dream." That film gave us a cinematic taste of what drug addicts experience through their addictions and depravity. "Blow" still shines a fresh new light on drugs in movies, and perceptively portrays the story of a person from whom many can learn.
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Uneven, but entertaining, all the same
mentalcritic18 November 2004
Since not every film can be a great masterpiece, it only stands to reason that there are some which, as good as they are, will never be mentioned in the same breath as The Godfather. Blow happens to be one of those films. In today's market, where films are literally churned out with more attention paid to marketability than merit, it is no surprise that films of almost every subject are saturating the market. Even films about, or based upon, historical crime figures are a dime a dozen these days. The plus to this is that the ones that do come out have to do something special in order to be considered good.

Blow's strengths lie in a couple of performances, and the scenes in which George Jung's ability to negotiate his way out of a fix (or into one) are displayed. Johnny Depp plays Jung with a consummate authenticity that, especially when sees the interviews with the real George Jung, literally leaps out of the screen. It's hard to believe this guy who I saw as a fresh-faced semi-nerd in A Nightmare On Elm Street is able to portray such a wide and varied range of characters. Ray Liotta gives him ample support as Fred Jung, showing a man hit hard by his own unsuccessful attempts to keep himself independent and free, therefore fully understanding of how far his son will go to see he doesn't fail in the same endeavour. The final scene with Liotta, where he is listening to the tape recording, is one of the most touching examples of men declaring they cannot regret their defiance seen on film.

The scenes with Pablo Escobar are especially amusing. As we see how George was able to charm his way into any deal he set his mind to, one cannot help but admire the man. Merely standing before the most powerful drug lord in South America at that time would have taken more guts than most people are allotted. The Jungian method of keeping oneself calm while smuggling through customs, even if completely fictional, sums up this this calmness in the face of danger quite brilliantly.

But, and it seems there always is a but with Hollywood product these days, some aspects of the film are terrible. Penélope Cruz is absolutely horrible as Mirtha Jung, and it is hard to believe that someone as cocky and bold as George would tolerate her presence. I've heard Salma Hayek (or horse-jaw as she is probably better-known) suggested for the part, but she is just as bad. Given how many actresses there are in Spain who would appreciate a break, and know a mode of speech other than screaming, one can't help but wish the director could have shown a bit of Jungian testicular fortitude and cast an unknown.

Adding to the film's woes is the end of the story. Compared to the first two thirds, where we seem to be going along at the speed of one of Jung's sports cars, the whole thread about Jung's inability to live without contact with his daughter brings affairs to a screeching halt. That Christina Jung has never visited her father, at least according to the ending crawl, is a pretty sad fact. What's even worse is that after viewing this film, we never learn anything about Christina. We don't learn if the cocaine abuse on her mother's part during pregnancy had any ill effects, or whether she has led a life she would call satisfactory. She is little more than a prop. The fact that Jaime King, the actress who played her during the final wrap-up, is a recovering heroin addict only makes one wonder more. Especially among those of us who really have to live with permanent physical damage that may have been caused by parental drug abuse during in utero development (even if it was only nicotine in my mother's case).

In all, I gave Blow an eight out of ten. If you want to know anything about George Jung and how cocaine got to be such a hot item in America, then this film does make some excellent points. With the poor economy in America where blue-collar workers are in borderline poverty while CEOs rip them off something blind, it really is a wonder we aren't seeing the rise of an army composed of George Jung wannabes.
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A Tale As Old As Time
jhclues8 April 2001
The effects of lacking the fortitude and conscience to make the right choices in life are examined in `Blow,' directed by Ted Demme and starring Johnny Depp as George Jung, a young New Englander who decides early on that living week to week and barely being able to make ends meet is not the kind of life he wants. George grew up in the ‘50s, in a decent, middle-class family, but was deeply affected by the fact that his father, Fred (Ray Liotta), worked his fingers to the bone as a plumber, sometimes fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, and it was never enough, especially for his mother, Ermine (Rachel Griffiths), who complained endlessly about not having enough money. More than once she abandoned her family, only to be taken back every time upon her return by Fred, who adored her. Then, in the late ‘60s, George, along with his childhood friend, Tuna (Ethan Suplee), moved to Southern California and quickly discovered the freedom of the beaches and a lifestyle conducive to his idea of paradise. That `paradise' being anchored in the realization of the big, easy money to be made at the time selling marijuana; and for George, it was only the beginning, the on-ramp to the freeway that would ultimately take him to the top of his `profession,' and which was destined to define his life.

It's a tale as old as time, the lesson of which is destined forever-- unfortunately-- to be ignored by those who seek the quick and easy road to wealth and happiness. Courage, it has been said, has many faces; one kind earns soldiers and citizens medals for rising above imminent danger. Another can be defined as being able to decline the carrot of ill-gotten gains when it is dangled before you. George lacked that kind of courage, and instead grabbed the promise it proffered with both hands, only to discover-- too late-- that it was empty indeed, and laced with unhappiness. It's a classic rags-to-riches-to-oblivion story, with a moral that will be embraced by those with the wisdom to build their house of brick instead of sticks and straw.

As George, Depp turns in a convincing, believable performance, portraying him as a misguided, rather than `bad' person. You sense that George's naivete enabled him to take chances and enter an arena to which common sense would otherwise have dictated avoidance, and because of that you are able to sympathize somewhat with him. Depp lends an innocence to the character in which you can find the kid next door, the good kid you grew up with and knew throughout your school years, and in retrospect, it would seem that George, a reasonably intelligent young man, simply made some very stupid decisions. And, as they say, the prisons are full of those just like him. But the most telling indication of who George really is and what he could/should have been, comes through his relationship with his father. And it is that which becomes the very core of the story.

As Fred Jung, Ray Liotta gives a poignant performance, presenting a very real person in a very real setting. completely avoiding any kind of stereotype into which this character could easily have fallen, Liotta plays him with a depth that averts sentimentality and makes the unconditional love he shows for his son entirely believable. It's a direct and understated performance that so clearly defines the true character of the man, and it is in the scenes between Liotta and Depp that the true nature of George is revealed as well, in which you begin to understand that he was just an ordinary guy who got caught up in extraordinary circumstances of his own design.

The supporting cast includes Penelope Cruz (Mirtha), Franka Potente (Barbara), Paul Reubens (Derek Foreal), Jordi Molla (Diego), Cliff Curtis (Escobar) and Max Perlich (Dulli). A cautionary tale for those who allow themselves to stray from the straight and narrow, the real impact of `Blow' is ultimately contained in the final frame of the film. It is a still picture of the real George Jung; and to fully realize what his life has been about, you need look no further than into the eyes of the man in that photograph. I rate this one 8/10.
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A very impressive film!
mattymatt4ever27 November 2002
I don't understand why many people I talked to either thought the film was bad or mediocre. Sure, it isn't a "great" movie, but when was the last time you saw 5 great movies in a row? A great movie comes along once in a blue moon, depending on your definition of great. I personally was very engaged in the plot. Johnny Depp gives a tour-de-force performance, fully engaging himself in the character. I'm sure he did lots of research on George Jung and tried to mimick his every mannerism, because this was far from a half-baked effort. Then again, I don't ever recall Johnny Depp doing a movie where he didn't put his full enthusiasm into the role. The movie has many tragic moments and many funny moments. The film is a little over 2 hours long, but the time flew by in a breeze. I was so enlightened that I'm anxious to do some research on the real George Jung. I'm not a fan of Penelope Cruz, and they could've chosen a much better actress, but she's only in the film about 20 or 30 minutes, so she isn't given enough time to ruin the film. Paul Reubens gives a surprisingly earnest performance as a flamboyant, bisexual hairdresser. It's too bad he's caught up in all this controversy, because he seems to have sufficient range as an actor. I loved hearing all the great classic rock songs in the soundtrack, and every time I watch the film the songs get stuck in my head and I start singing them for days on end.

"Blow" is a touching drama that doesn't try to exploit the world of drugs, nor condemn it. After seeing George's tragic outcomes as a world-class coke dealer, I doubt anyone would want to get in or get back into the "business," but that doesn't necessarily mean the message is preachy.

My score: 8 (out of 10)
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Does what it shouldn't do
tekkodbz23 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I find this movie VERY GOOD! In fact, the end nearly brought me to tears. This movie does something that shouldn't be, but it is. By the end of the movie, you feel SO SORRY for a drug dealing thief. It's amazing how they tell the story, and by the end you want to go see this man and say how sorry you were. I believe that it's one of Johnny's best roles and really makes you think some. This movie has been underrated by many people because it's about drugs, but the story is just a story, but the message it brings and the emotions it triggers, are lasting. I recommend this movie to anyone that wants to see a Good Film.
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Good Movie ! No White Lies!
meeza1 May 2001
`On your mark! Get set and blow!' And prepare yourself to one of the most provocative and entertaining films you will see all year. `Blow' stars Johnny Depp and is based upon the real life story of drug dealer George Jung. Depp's performance as Jung was outstanding and proves again why his outstanding diverse acting is all that is `cracked' up to be. Ray Liotta was just as good as the trusting father. However, Penelope Cruz as the materialistic drug dealer wife was not a woman on top with her acting. The most surprisingly energetic performance was by Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman) who was once again a master of his domain as the drug dealing homosexual middleman (in more ways than one). All in all, this is one `blow' that does the job right! **** Good
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Cocaine, They Started that. Your Welcome.
Quinoa19842 April 2001
That statement was said by Denis Leary who, not surprisingly, co-produced this drug epic with Ted Demme who not only directs this film, but Leary's special No Cure for Cancer. Watching that special, I would've never expected a movie this good and serious, but it is. And unless a better film comes along this year, Blow might just be the best film of 2001.

In this bio-pic, George Jung is a guy who starts out by selling pot in the California area. After a while though, he progresses to selling cocaine in the late 70's and early 80's with the infamous Pablo Ecobar, and becomes a multi-millionaire (Jung, played by Jonny Depp very well, explains that if you bought cocaine in that time period in America, there would be a 85 percent chance it was from him). But then we see how things change with time, especially with Jung, which makes this movie even more fascinating and excellent.

While Blow is stylish, smart and hard edged with good stuff, the film also has compassion and feeling, in-particular in the third act which gives this movie a clever turn. Also with brilliant acting from the cast (the ensemble includes Depp, Paul Ruebens, Penelope Cruz and in a twist of a role from GoodFellas, Ray Liotta as Jung's dad) and a well told story, this is one of the best bio-pics and drug movies of the 00's.
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The true story...
BWil18 May 2004
It feels wrong to be sympathetic toward a person who deals drugs for a living, but after watching this movie (being based on a true story)I have a completely different view of George Jung. The first time I watched it, I watched it because I'm a fan of Johnny Depp. I always felt he played his best role in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," however, now it's hard to decipher which was better, his role as Raoul Duke, or George Jung?

The story of George Jung's life is a truly amazing one considering he starts out dealing marijuana, and his own mother has him sent to jail, and then he winds up trafficking cocaine with Pablo Escobar, and becoming as rich as Penelope Cruz is beautiful. He finally decides to straighten his life out for his daughter, and winds up back in jail for the rest of his life. The end of this movie is as sad as the story itself. I've never stayed as interested in a movie that was over 2 hours long as I did with this movie. It's a great, climactic story, and I would recommend it to basically ANY movie lover. I don't know a single person who hasn't seen it, and walked away disliking it. Johnny Depp deserves an Oscar. He's an incredible actor, and George Jung was an incredible man.
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Better than expected
Chris_Docker13 June 2001
Based on a true story of how the American cocaine market was founded, this is a lot more funky than I had expected. A thumpingly good soundtrack right from the start and Johnny Depp cruising in to be a convincingly laid-back big-shot - almost like a graduate from Boogie Nights. Penelope Cruz manages to be blisteringly erotic in a few well-crafted scenes and without removing a stitch of clothing. Later, instead of following the usual pattern of despair in the second half where most drug movies home in on drug dependency, Blow refreshingly focuses on the emotional losses suffered by the characters. A film that just about manages to be more than the sum of its parts, it would have made a nice sort of pre-quel to Traffic, but it stands alone in fine form. And it's moving rather than depressing.
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Above average...
buiger4 March 2007
Not a bad movie, above average, but nothing extraordinary, nothing that could even remotely be compared with for example, Scarface.

In my opinion the main 'problem' with this motion picture is that Depp is never really believable as a hardened drug dealer, there is no way that the real George Jung was ever even remotely like that. The proof of this is in the last frame of the movie where we see the real George's face staring at us from the screen. At that precise moment we know: the real George Jung was very, very different, his face tells us that.

On the other hand, Paul Reubens is excellent as Derek Foreal and the very good soundtrack is also worthy of mention. All in all, a good movie definitely worth watching, but also a movie that could have been much much better.
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Unapologetic Film About an Unapologetic Life
agoodfella22 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
*** 1/2 out of ****

This is a remarkable film about a remarkable story based on a remarkable life. I am surprised by the number of critics. Does this film try and glorify the drug dealer? No. Is George Jung a hero? No. Is the film's purpose to make him one? No. This is why I have problems with a majority of the critics of this excellent film. Why the criticism? The subject matter? The fact that it was based on a true story?

At any rate, back to the film, which is wonderfully shot backed up by great performances from Johnny Depp, Ray Liotta and Jordi Molla. The film is told from a narrative perspective by George Jung (Johnny Depp) tracing the spectacular rise and fall of the pioneering US cocaine distributor of the 70 / 80s.

The film moves seamlessly from George's adolescence to adulthood through a number of locations and vividly captures the essence of that decadent era. The sets, costumes and music all work perfectly.

The audience takes an incredible journey, pulled into a world of drug smuggling / distributing, the illusion of 'easy money', ensuing greed and finally betrayal. While many are quick to point out the fact that this person was a "drug dealer" and ponder, "why feel sorry for him?", this misses the point IMO. His story doesn't search for sympathy from the audience, although it is a sad one. It is an unapologetic look at an unapologetic life.

The greatest takeaway from his experience was that he realized too late what was truly important in his life. Simple things, not the money, not the cars, but "real" things as foreshadowed by his father's speech to him as a child. A point that is continually being underscored by his father's unconditional love (wonderfully played by Ray Liotta, a refreshing character change for him) and culminates in his own unconditional love for his daughter - although he is too late to recieve it.

*** minor spoilers ahead ***

Notable scenes in the movie include:

The beginning of the "US cocaine explosion" after meeting Pablo - the stylish kaleidoscopic montage of single shot images brilliantly captures the essence of that era, underscored by the song "Blinded by the Light" in the background

Jolla's solid performance as the two-faced 'Judas' Diego is highlighted in the powerful coke-induced scene where admits his betrayal to George.

Johnny Depp is tremendous as usual. His understated performances are growing on me with every picture. This contrasts harshly with Penelope Cruz's performances which I have found to be increasingly annoying with each performance.

Lastly, the sad irony of this film is that it is also now a self-tribute to a rising film maker who could not himself escape the dangers of cocaine.

Ted Demme RIP.
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barberoux10 September 2001
"Blow" is basically a glorification of the drug trade. Principles are shown in a glamorous light throughout most of the movie. They get all the girls and are awash in money. Even after they are arrested and confined to prison their only real crime portrayed is the loss of family life and strained relations with parents. In prison George Jung is portrayed as a counter culture icon, a wronged, flawed hero. The negative effects of the drugs upon the society as a whole are never broached. The killings, the crime, the destroyed lives, the waste are not examined. It is truly a movie about our times. A valuable movie to watch to see what has happened to our moral compass. It is another Hollywood view of the state of the union.
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A few bags of 'pot' leads to tons of cocaine.
michaelRokeefe5 May 2001
Director Ted Demme gives us an engrossing look at the very high highs and lowest of lows in the life of one of America's pioneer cocaine dealers George Jung(Johnny Depp). This story spans three decades: starting with Jung happy just to buy and sell 'pot'; being the first gringo to move cocaine into America from Pablo Escobar's Colombian cartel; and daydreaming while tending a garden in Federal prison. Jung lived life in the fast lane with the best of them. Soon there was trouble in paradise that led to life on the run from the FBI and DEA.

Depp is to be commended on his superb job in the challenging lead role and holding an awkward script together. Cliff Curtis is the stern and powerful Escobar. Ray Liotta is Jung's passive, but concerned father. Paul "Pee Wee" Reubens is Jung's back stabbing gay friend/dealer. Jordi Molla is Diego, Jung's ruthless partner and former cell mate. Penelope Cruz is Jung's wife Mirtha that lives for three things: cocaine, sex and money. I am not impressed with anything that Miss Cruz brings to the movie. The most disliked character in this movie is Jung's snob of a mother played by Rachel Griffiths.

This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but those who view the movie will have the story lingering in their thoughts. Violence and profanity are scattered about in this sometimes disjointed tale.
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Petty Conspiracies
tedg17 December 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

What makes this superficially mundane film interesting is what Depp does behind the director's back.

The situation depicted is a society that is unaware of itself, tragically, humorously so. Within that society, under the radar of group consciousness, an incredibly rich network of one-to-one conspiracies was formed, involving hundreds of millions of people globally. Nothing was controlled, everything was on a one-to-one basis.

Now here we have a film that is not just about this, but uses the same mechanism. When we experience a film, especially a Hollywood product, we are seeing an artifact of a society, and generally not a very astute one. As with America in the seventies, it rumbles along thinking it is in charge. It waves the flag of individualism but has no way of getting close to the phenomenon. In fact every effort to accommodate dooms itself because it flexes the big machine.

So it is with this film that is planned, written and directed with the mentality of a soviet factory. And along comes Depp. The dynamics of the character are that he engenders trust with the people he contacts.

Well known social phenomenon: when you take drugs with someone, an intimate, opportunistic fellowship is created, not from any commonality but by shared exclusion of the `outside' in spite of the best attempts of that outside to intrude. Get enough druggies walking around and you have a bazillion pairs of immediate, mostly superficial conspiracies adding up to a counterculture. This film focuses not on the counterculture, but the pairs formed by Depp's character and the people he meets. As he says, he is very, very good at this.

Depp is coming along as a fine actor. He's no Sean Penn yet, but he is one of a half dozen male actors worth following and he is steadily growing. His solution to the challenge of this film is to adopt an acting style that is a conspiracy of pairs. He completely ignores Demme, who seems concerned with his checklist of directors to copy. Instead, what we see is a two layered performance between Depp and each of his collaborating actors.

At the `low' level, we see Jung forming a bond. At the higher level, we see Depp forming similar bonds to create the illusion of the first. It's intelligent stuff which he shades according to each role. For instance, with Rubens, there are sexual bounds that are excluded, but because they are explicitly so, they become important at the higher level. The partnership with Liotta is notable: liotta is the senior but less talented, so he withdraws. Depp goes extra distance in this conspiracy to help Liotta define the character of the Dad.

Particularly of interest is what Depp works out with the two women, again all behind Demme's back. Potente is an intelligent actress who was in `Lola,' a landmark bit of folded self-reference. His bond with her is intellectual. See the virtual winks and nudges. If she had lived, he would have had a chance at turning his life into something meaningful (and with Depp, controlling the movie to have a more meaningful existence).

Cruz is not an intelligent actress, rather an intuitive. See how Depp forms an improv bond with her at the actor level that mirrors the story? Mostly acting with their body movements? And on and on one at a time, Depp creates a counterculture of performances. Stay tuned to Depp.
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Unreliable Memoir...
Cloten6 September 2001
There's something relentlessly self-serving about the (auto)biographies of criminals. There are too many plays for sympathy; a certain neatness in the way events always seem to absolve the criminal of blame; a sense of something being laid on a little too thick. So it is with 'Blow'.

George Jung, as played by Johnny Depp, is a perpetual ingenue. His character is a catalogue of good looks and sweet gestures, and he has a downright saintliness in his dealings with others that's so slick and saccharine that one can see the con coming from miles away. George is kind to his friends, generous to his business partners, oddly enough always the victim and never the perpetrator of double crossings, and by God, he loves his daughter. I was disappointed that there were no scenes of Johnny Depp administering aid to wounded animals, but it's possible that these were cut to allow the film to run its current six hours in length.

While there's a certain low humour in watching film-makers unknowingly playing the role of patsies, the warped and jagged caricatures Jung's narrative makes of the other people in his story (the better to portray him as Christ) soon nip any fun in the bud. George's mother (Rachel Griffiths, utterly wasted) is a cold, insatiate bitch; his wife (Penelope Cruz, hysterical) is a coke-mad, tantrum throwing ingrate, and his West Coast distributor (Paul Reubens, the less said the better) is a limp wristed fairy (largely, I suspect, so as not to threaten George's position as the film's only sympathetic, attractive, non-ethnic heterosexual male). It's notable that the only female close to Jung who gets anything like a good rap is his flower-child stewardess fiancee Barbara, who rather conveniently drops dead before her relations with him have a chance to sour.

While it's not exactly unentertaining - the film's early-mid section works well as an evocation of sunlit good times - 'Blow's' inherent manipulativeness is never far beneath the surface. Once things go bad for Jung, the film starts to sag in sympathy (literally) with him, and becomes instead a chronicle of Bad and Unjust Things Suffered with Commendable Stoicism by George Jung. My advice would be to have already left the theatre by this point. The ending is painfully overblown and drawn out, and we are forced to endure one of the more 'off' moments in recent cinema as the film primly castigates Jung's daughter for not visiting her father in jail. I'm sure she has her reasons.
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I guess cocaine is not addictive.
SamPeckinpaw22 February 2003
Both Dep and Cruz's characters never showed any drug dependence after years of HEAVY use. No withdrawal symptoms and no physical or psychological dependence at all after they stopped their cocaine use.

Was this a pro drug movie? Also George Jung must have been one of the stupidest criminals ever. Putting all his money in a bank in Panama. Swiss bank accounts were also used by other "smart" criminals. And what was the big deal about the Paul Rubin drug connection secret in California. Just have Dep followed, Duh. Why didn't Jung have any body guards? You would think he would be a marked man and had to protect his turf. If this was based upon a true story, it must have been 70% made up. More like a drug fairy tale. See "Requiem for a Dream" for a realistic drug movie. But be prepared it pulls no punches.
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A sanitized, Hollywood-style adaptation that is ultimately a letdown
Surecure19 January 2007
I watched this adaptation of Bruce Porter's novel "Blow" having read most of the book. As a film alone, it is passable. But as an adaptation of truly attention-getting material, it is a sorry failure. Based on the true-life of George Jung who created an empire in the United States by dealing cocaine, the film starts off on the wrong footing and continues to descend into a white-wash of the events of George Jung's life.

Director Ted Demme takes Jung's life and creates artificial sympathy for the character making the film a tragedy of circumstance rather than of choice. However, George Jung himself admitted that the only reason he chose to be a cocaine dealer was that times were slow and he needed the money. Demme also turns Jung's mother into an uncaring villain who turns her son into the cops and taunts him as he is led away, when in reality Jung really doesn't know who turned him in. The film also looks over the fact that George had a well-paying job when he decided to enter the world of drug trafficking. It is of no surprise that director Ted Demme sympathized with Jung considering Demme's own cocaine related death less than a year later.

What was advertised and initially appeared to be a truly engaging exploration of the world of cocaine dealing turned out to be a very typical Hollywood film about drug dealing. With music video cinematography and underwhelming performances by Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz and most of the remaining cast, Blow doesn't come close to expanding or improving upon countless other films exploring the same topic. It falls quickly into the Hollywood glamor trap and never ascends to anything more than typical.
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Rampant glorification
spyder-199 December 2005
I am a self-confessed Depp junkie. It is difficult for me not to like him in any film, even if it is the abysmal Secret Window. Blow is no exception. Johnno is spot on as the bright young decadent drug dealer. However, right from the outset, it seems the aim of the film is to justify all George did. Avaracious mother, excessively tolerant dad, friend who back stab the 'good ole bloke', unfeeling wife, and unforgotten daughter. It's almost as if Mr Jung is this really nice guy who has been given the short end all his life!! I mean, c'mon, he is a drug dealer!! And I find it irritating that Depp, and the director, refused to play up the strange amoral complexity that makes a man like George Jung what he is. In fact, the filmmaker is so awed by this guy who led this 'groovy' life that he landed up glorifying a good bloke turned bad, rather than showing the intricacies of nature - and nurture - that create the George Jungs of the day.
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A good performance from Johnny Depp fails to tie this uneven and derivative drug drama together.
star803 April 2001
I wanted to like "Blow" a lot more than I did, as I am a major devotee of the rise-and-fall drug movie subgenre. However, despite another effortlessly excellent performance from Johnny Depp, this film fails to add up to more than the sum of its parts.

The story told here spans decades, and chronicles the familiar story of the dizzying rise within the drug trade, the opulent excess, the unheeded warning signs of violence and loss, and the final fall, resulting in emotional devastation. Individual moments in the film are affecting, especially in the last third, when Depp's character attempts to go straight and win back his daughter. These scenes reveal a side to this oft-told story that are not always evident in other films. But unfortunately, the structure of the film is a mess, and the timing is all off. Somehow, I felt myself longing to see more depth of character, for the writers and directors to spend more time with each scene, while at the same time feeling boredom and restlessness due to my inability to become fully engaged by each new scene or character--the story being told is big and long, and the filmmakers clearly do not have a real handle on it.

Lack of focus and a clear sense of direction are the film's greatest flaws, and these overshadow more favorable elements, including a fresh visual take on the party-time 70s setting: This film eschews the glossy disco sheen of so many of the recent films about this era with a dingy, sun-baked vision. Glamour is noticeably missing from "Blow," a fact that I both admire and find refreshing.

Other bright moments include a subtly hilarious cameo from Bobcat Goldthwaite, as well as other strong supporting performances, and a calm, unhurried, and believable portrayal of the relationship between Depp and his father, played by the always-dependable Ray Liotta. However, the performance by Penelope Cruz is unbelievably shrill, manic, and off-putting. She comes off as a deranged harpie, a one-dimensional coke fiend. I wonder if there was far more meat to Cruz's performance before director Ted Demme began editing heavily to keep the film under 3 hours. Cruz's work has been promising so far, so I wonder if she is solely to blame for a truly awful performance.

A sign of a film that misses the mark in a fundamental way is its ability to constantly remind you of similar but far better films. "Blow" does this, and it only makes clear how unsuccessful the film is. This film owes a debt to "GoodFellas" and "Boogie Nights," as well as a number of other films, but suffers greatly by comparison. It lacks the vitality, originality, and skill of "Traffic," and the existence of these inevitable comparisons only makes it clearer that "Blow" is bluntly put together, deeply flawed, and an uninteresting take on an important and fascinating topic.
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Doesn't even make sense while it glorifies criminality
Jeff-19716 September 2001
Okay, it glorifies a criminal, that's been established. It has really bad cinematography (lighting), direction (could they have flash-cut some more?), and effects (George's pillow, er, I mean, gut at the end). The acting, apart from some decent moments, isn't phenomenal. And George's accent stinks (exact same new england accent after speaking spanish for years?? Uh, no).

But after watching it a second time, I'd like to point out some things that to me are plot holes.

(1) Why does it take so long for George to get "screwed"? That is, why did it take so long for the drug producers to sell more directly? (2) Why does Diego try so hard to find out George's west coast contact? Once George "created the market" couldn't Diego have sold to any Hollywood bigshot? (3) Why, once Diego "screws" George, does he take so long to "screw" Paul Rueben's character? Again, couldn't he have just found any other rich person with California connections? What made this hairdresser/entrepreneur so darned essential to this whole cartel? There were evidently thousands of people wanting (and addicted to) cocaine... just sell them some! (4) why, when the Colombians are first involving him with a pilot, George didn't recommend to work with his old buddy "Dooley" (5) what I kept waiting for - whatever happened to TUNA, or any of his old friends. (Besides....) (MOST OF ALL, 6) Why, after George's party with the "cocaine buffet" would the police be the slightest bit interested in having George take the rap for all the possession of drugs at the party? Wouldn't they want names, info., state's evidence? Wouldn't George not having to name any be a deal for HIM??

This story doesn't even make sense!! While painting George to be a misunderstood hero, and oh, we weep for his loss of his daughter, it forgets to even be logical.

And "slipping" from the narrators memory are any explanations of: A) why he never paid child support B) why he couldn't get a real job ever in his life, even when sober, and even though he supposedly admired his Dad's work ethic so much C) why so many people evidently thought he was a schmuck (his mom, his wife, his daughter, Diego, etc.)

Had the movie made logical sense, I could have accepted it as a polemic. But it fails to even do that.
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watch it as fiction
tenthousandtattoos26 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Great movie, Depp is typically awesome and way too cool for school. But, don't watch it as a historical biopic, coz it's not. It's "based" on a true story. Watch it as a fictional, entertaining movie with a very dramatic, moving ending. The real George Jung was NOT Johnny Depp-cool and is worthy of no sympathy at all. He was a greedy, manipulative, money-grubbing drug dealer and the film conveniently leaves out the FACT that he and his partner, Diego, actually MURDERED several people who interfered with their business, and destroyed countless other lives directly or indirectly through the incredible amounts of cocaine they sold. He got 60 years in Otisville because he deserved 60 years in Otisville.

That aside, this movie has a coolness factor that has assured its place in my collection.

Notables: Depp's airport-walk to the tune of "Black Betty", the Mexico "i don't need a little, a need a LOT" scene, and all the California stuff ("I'm a stewardess...i'm a a stewardess..."
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lukesutcliffe234 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Before researching I did not know this was based on a true story/accounts from Jung, Escobar and Rivas. By the end I was extremely interested in finding out more! Johnny Depp is exceptional as George Jung, his great chemistry with Jordi Molla and Ray Liotta gives a real feel to how George was more or less an ordinary guy with a great mind for business (even if that business was cocaine and cannabis smuggling). The acting in this film is fantastic, Depp, Liotta, Molla and Reubens all perform their roles to a t. The feeling that most of these guys were just small time crooks who got big too fast really comes through. With similarities to Goodfellas (why not if the system works), George's story is well played out, not over the top, and keeps you interested in all the characters involved. Add to that a rocking soundtrack that suits the film perfectly following Jung's continued rock and roll life style throughout the film and you have a very good movie that I would highly recommend. Just like his performance in Donnie Brasco (which was exceptional), Depp makes the character feel normal, not too likable or unlikable but driven to make money and lots of it.
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the story never carried the weight of trafficking such a heavy load
Elizabeth Nolan26 March 2001
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** Blow is a silly name for what should be a serious movie about a man's life in the drug trade; yet the title fits not because it is Ha-Ha funny but because the movie is incongruous and superficial for the most part.

The abbreviated bookends of George's life with his parents and his own `kid' do not offer the insight needed to understand George; what should be explanations are merely exposes of what happened. We never see George in want; even when his father is forced to bankruptcy, George is well groomed and neatly dressed; yet, it is the desire to avoid being poor that is neatly but merely verbalized as his motivation. Who is fooling who here?

George's biggest childhood problem is his father's unstable relationship with his mother, emphasized when his father pleads `not in front of the boy.' George, although he is meant to have grown up possessing the parental love of his father's tenderness, only duplicates his father's poor choice in a marriage partner. Unfortunately, the father's love is wasted on George in subtle ways. When he first returns, George is called `our son' by the loving father; later, George is emotionally disowned when announced as `your son' to his mother (even though it is the mother who has turns him in). When George refers to his own daughter it is with the perfunctory "not in front of the (generic) kid." What attempts to foster a father-child relationship is just one birthday anniversary after wonder the kid wanted to have nothing to do with her father. His efforts at love were superficial at best; only too late does he learn `it's not the money;' which is most unfortunate in that he had a father enlightened enough to teach that valuable truth that it is about the love...and keeping yourself available to provide that love, rather than in a prison cell or strung out on drugs or away at work in another part of the world.

Unrealistic drug trafficking scenes cause the empty void of the movie. Only way into the 2nd hour do daily problems in the real world: jealousy, competition, back stabbing, emotional instability, communication errors, miscues, etc. seem to show up... too little too late. It all seemed too simple, too nice, too well put together... too unbelievable. For example, with a half dozen revolvers drawn point blank on him, George is hit in the shoulder by a solitary shot. Weren't any of those other drug traffickers trigger happy?

It was almost as if emotion was drained from the story. By rapidly addressing Barbara's condition, a frank opportunity to intensify disloyalty just slips by. Even the simple phrase "I want a Dad at home," would have been more painful than the kid's "What do you want from me?" when George tries to reclaim his position as father.

Despite these story faults, there is simple entertainment value in BLOW. Although Depp does not convince me of anything except his inherited but profound poor choosing of a marital mate, he is always interesting to watch. Liotta is the best, especially in his quiet hurt over his son; Griffiths as his wife is a bit much; how did he put up with her? Barbara is too empty to be taken serious and it is too weak a role for Potente; Mirtha's range, especially her wrath, cannot be covered by Cruz even though her turning on George is one of the most emotional scenes. I would have reversed the Potente and Cruz characters. Cruz exudes support and affection, her sweet voice dampens intentional anger. Rubens is most entertaining as the gay distributor. Only Derek looks like he ever inhaled, again well into the story after the betrayal.

The body of the story, the actual drug trafficking is made to look interesting, if you are a new viewer to these things. But the execution scene, the gun barrel in the mouth, the apartment overloaded with money, the constant sampling of product have all been done better when seen through more realistic eyes. That's the problem with BLOW, it looks as if the characters were never really involved in the drug trade, they might as well have been inhaling sugar powder as they never really looked the part and the story never carried the weight of trafficking such a heavy load.

Who is fooling who here? BLOW seems to turn out to be more about boasting than about cocaine. But what would you expect from a director who needs to tell you with a sub-title that it is the 70's. If you cannot create that feel from all the distinctive dress, hairstyle, manners, speech, and music of that time, you can't expect to tell one of the prime stories of that period without blowing it!
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Why the need to whitewash?
vamikkel29 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw Blow several years ago, and I loved it. Watching it again a couple of days ago my opinion changed dramatically. What made me change my mind? I think what made me like the film in the first place was its "groovy feel" and its realistic portraying of dope smuggling. The scene where George has to carry a suitcase containing fifty kilos of cocaine through customs is both good crafts work and very exciting to watch.

Watching the film today, however, I must say I didn't find the George Jung character very plausible. To me, it seems like the entire purpose of the film is to whitewash George Jung and make him, and the dope trade, into something it obviously isn't.

George Jung was a high level player in the organization known as the "Medellin cartel", run by drug lord Pablo Escobar. This was the organization which among other horrible acts, including countless murders, single-handedly declared war on the Colombian state and put Colombian society through several years of fear and arbitrary terror, making Meddelin and Bogota into two of the most dangerous cities in the world to live in. Yet, we are led to believe that George Jung wasn't like this. He never turns to violence. It's not George that's bad, it's everyone around else (except for his father and the murderous Pablo Escobar).

It's astonishing how many alterations are made to the real story in order to whitewash George.

When he skips bail the first time in the film it's because of his wife's illness when in reality he was motivated by pure egoism.

When he makes the arrangements for the first cocaine flight it's this evil Colombian guy who demands of the pilot information on his family, implicitly threatening to murder them if something should happen to the narcotics, while this was in fact George's own preferred method of securing his goods.

Not to mention the mild reaction he gets to Diego's treachery. He merely travels to Normans Cay in order to show his contempt for the guy. George never intends to hurt anyone. Wrong. The only reason why George called of his plans to kill Diego, or Carlos which was his actual name, was out of fear of an all out war with the Medellin cartel. To them, Carlos was much more important than George.

I know; it's only fiction, and by the use of voice-over it is made clear that this is in fact George's own subjective account of what went down. To me, though, that just isn't enough. I think the film would have profited of a more complex character. The whitewash of George is not essential to the plot.

My question then is why doesn't the director create a darker character, as would have been perfectly called for in this film? What are his motives? Why the need to whitewash? One is almost led to think that this was George Jung's own making. But it couldn't be, could it...?
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All My Running Time I Wanted To Be GOODFELLAS....
Theo Robertson12 November 2003
.... Well that`s the impression I got when BLOW started as Ted Demme borrows a very similar style to Martin Scorsese`s classic gangster movie as the movie starts with a flash back a pumping soundtrack and voice over and seeing as the early scenes have Ray Liotta this did nothing to stop me thinking that I`d be watching a Scorsese clone but I was misled by the beginning as Demme has made a good film , maybe not a classic but it`s still a good film .

The film is a bio-pic on George Jung who started off as a youth selling pot on the beaches of California in 1968 and who went on to become the major supplier of cocaine to the United States in the 1970s and early 80s and unlike a great number of movies " based on true stories " involving drug trafficers , most notably the film version of MIDNIGHT EXPRESS , nothing here seems to ring false or feels embellished . It`s also refreshing to see a movie that`s totally amoral and non judgemental about drug dealers , though of course it does make the point that despite large profits being made drug dealing will almost certainly end in tears

Johnny Depp is adequate as George Jung though I`m still unconvinced if he`s a star down to his looks rather than an abundance of talent . I`ve noticed many critics are annoyed at the casting of Penelope Cruz but I found her giving a good performance and can`t help thinking a lot of comments are made by women who are jealous of her beauty , oh and Ms Cruz gets naughty with a whip in this movie which is reason enough to watch in my book , and Ted Demme does bring a very snazzy style to BLOW like numerous scenes that start in slow mo and finish at normal speed and vice versa

Drugs are bad - BLOW is good
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