Johnny Depp as George Jung
Penelope Cruz as Mirtha
Franka Potente as Barbara
Rachel Griffiths as Mrs. Jung
Paul Reubens as Derek Foreal
Ray Liotta as Fred Jung

Blow chronicles the rise and fall of one of America’s pioneers in cocaine smuggling.

Blow is based on the true story of George Jung. George grew up in Massachusetts in the 60’s with a hard working father and a demanding mother. Despite his best efforts, George’s father couldn’t make ends meet. Seeing the problems this put his family through, George was determined to never be poor.

As a young adult, he traveled to California with a buddy. They soon fell in with a questionable crowd and began smoking pot. Seeing potential to make money, they decided to become pot dealers. George hooked up with Derek Foreal, a local gay hairdresser and drug dealer. They began to make quite a bit of cash. It then escalated when they started transporting marijuana back to the East Coast and selling it there.

George was finally caught with 600 pounds of marijuana and was sent to jail. While there, he became schooled in the trafficking of cocaine from Columbia. When he got out of jail, he made plans to start a cocaine smuggling operation into the U.S.. At one point he was responsible for 85% of the cocaine smuggled into the U.S. in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He made millions of dollars quickly and married Mirtha. They had a daughter, and George’s focus and priorities in his life slowly started to shift.

When his smuggler partner eventually betrayed him, George decided to end his involvement in drug smuggling and go straight. However, he kept his ties with his old friends and was eventually busted along with them when the FBI came. While in jail, he realized his daughter was the most important thing to him in the world. George finally gets out of jail, but is broke and can’t support his daughter. He makes one last drug run in order get some quick cash.

This film is rated R for pervasive drug content and language, some violence and sexuality.

What Worked:
I think Johnny Depp is one of the best actors out there, and he continues to deliver in this film. He is totally different in every role and he is utterly convincing in making you believe he’s the character he’s portraying on screen. It’s the same in Blow as he plays George Jung. Depp makes George sympathetic, yet you still want to slap him upside the head for blowing his chances to go straight and put his life in order. Jung had absolutely no marketable skills beyond being a drug smuggler. That’s probably why he kept turning to it over and over. Depp is also effective in making us believe he really cares for his daughter, despite the fact that they have very little screen time together. When they are up there at the same time, it’s very emotional.

The supporting cast is really good. Paul Reubens shows he can act beyond Pee Wee Herman. You don’t think of that other role at all while he’s on the screen. Ray Liotta makes an amazing transformation from young father to old man as Jung’s dad. He’s also probably the only honorable character in the film. It’s amazing that he keeps accepting his son no matter what he does, yet still shows his disapproval without saying a word. A great performance.

Ted Demme does a great job directing. He plays with the camera and lighting quite a bit to give different moods. The parts of the movie set in the 60’s are filmed with that same cinematic style from the era. Other times he gives the characters rather dramatic lighting at major turning points in their lives. It’s funky, but effective.

What Didn’t Work:
There’s a lot of drug use shown in this film. How could you not show it considering the subject material? However, what was disturbing to me personally was the fact that it seemed to be glorified. People snort cocaine, they act silly, and that’s it. Only once do they show the consequences of it, but it was an extreme example and didn’t seem to get across the point of the danger of casual use. Even more disturbing was the fact that the audience giggled and laughed as the characters did the drugs. It was obvious to me that a lot of the people in the crowd thought it was funny or cool. They didn’t see it as a step in the process of the destruction of the character’s lives.

The movie also doesn’t really show why drug smuggling is bad or illegal. We see poor Columbians make money. We see the smugglers revel in their newfound wealth. We see all the great things about being a drug smuggler and only brief glimpses of why it’s bad. When Jung is finally caught, the only lesson learned seems to be “Don’t get caught next time”. There’s no sense that this guy committed a crime, probably was key in ruining a lot of people’s lives, and got what he deserved. In the end his incarceration almost seems unjustified because you’re sympathetic to the guy. Even some of the FBI agents who bust him feel sorry for doing it.

Finally, why tell this man’s story? Yes, he’s a colorful character, but all we see is his rise and fall. In the end he’s just a lazy guy that wanted to make a fast buck. He had chances to put his life in order and blew it every time. In the end he was busted and is currently paying the price. The final lesson is that the quick and easy path isn’t always the best one to take. Plenty of other more worthy people out there can probably drive that home.

In the end, Blow is a good film, but it’s not one I would necessarily rush out to see. Consider it rated “R” for “Rental”.