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I initially had no interest in this film, thinking who wants to see a movie about some two bit dope dealer? My teenage son, however, rented the DVD, and I found myself a captive audience. To my surprise, it was a riveting, well done film. Sure, it was about a two bit dope dealer, but what a story. George Jung, an all American kid from a hard working, hard knocks family, begins dealing marijuana during the 1960s. He develops his business into an empire, and then he decides to branch out into the sexier world of cocaine and really big money. Using his considerable entrepreneurial instinct, he makes a deal with the Columbian drug cartel. Before you know it, he is raking in millions. Unfortunately, the best laid plans often go awry, and there is no fairy tale ending for George. This is a story of hopes, dreams, violence, greed, and betrayal.
Well directed by the late Ted Demme, the film is compelling and absorbing as it recounts George Jung's incredible odyssey in the drug trade, tracking the rise of the cocaine industry in the United States, attendant with all its violence. Johnny Depp, in the role of George Jung, makes him into a likable guy who has bitten off more than he can chew, with ultimately dire results. His is a search for the American Dream, a dream that forever remains elusive.
Ray Liotta is terrific in the role of George's father, Fred Jung, a sensitive and devoted everyman married to a hard, selfish woman, Ermine Jung, a woman who lacks all motherly instincts and is played with gritty determination by Rachel Griffiths. Jordi Molla is excellent in the role of Diego, George's entre into the world of high stakes, cocaine dealing, and Cliff Curtis is excellent as Escobar, the Columbian drug cartel's main man. Penelope Cruz is terrible as George's beautiful Latina wife, Mirtha. She is simply a bad actress whose English is often unintelligible. With the exception of Ms. Cruz, however, the cast is uniformly excellent.
This is the story about a young man who, faced with choices in his life, made the wrong ones and lived to regret it. Johnny Depp captures the pathos of Jung's wasted life. That his characterization is dead on is brought home by Ted Demme's wonderful interview of the real George Jung. This interview is one of the numerous bonus features on this DVD and is well worth watching. It is a poignant interview, as it underscores that Jung's was a life wasted. It also serves to illustrate just how remarkable Depp's characterization of Jung really is. All in all, this is a vibrant, informative, and entertaining film.
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on October 16, 2001
This film presses all the right buttons, but being touted as basically the true-life story of George Jung, I was disappointed that the film paid little respect to the chronology of significant events and completely overlooked many of the defining moments of George's career.
Having already read the book "Blow" - available from Amazon and an excellent biography - perhaps I found it more difficult to get "into" the movie, often asking myself "why is this happening/not happening now?" amongst other things...
A few obvious changes for dramatic effect, perhaps.....
1. George's first girlfriend (played by the babelicious Franka Potente) tell's George she has an incurable disease, so he skips bail to hang out with her in Mexico until she dies. In actual fact, the girlfriend was dumped pretty quickly, was never fatally-ill (interviewed for the book) and was one of a long, long succession of girls that George used and discarded during his "career". He skipped to Mexico purely because he didn't want to go to jail, and move into "quantity" smuggling of marijuana.
2. George is basically kidnapped and taken to Colombia to meet Pablo Escobar, - a test - and this meeting "starts" the whole coke business. In fact however, George had been importing/dealing large quantities of coke for a few years before going to meet Pablo - something he did voluntarily on his own, to gain status among the Florida-based Columbians and gain favour with Pablo in his problems with Carlos Lehder - a cartel member.
The movie ignores or trivialises many of George's character traits - huge long-term coke usage and the resultant psychosis and paranoia, his life-long addiction to hookers, kinky sex, including masochistic tendencies played-out by cross-dressing (french maid)and being dominated and "spanked" by his wife while tied spread-eagled to their marital bed, among many others.
The turning point, the start of his "real" troubles is when George confides his secrets to an undercover cop whom he meets one afternoon on the beach out-front of his house. In short-order, George invites the guy into his house, tells the cop that he's a big-time smuggler and immediately makes him part of the "operation" without knowing anything about the guy. This of course brings big heat onto George, and the good-guys start engineering George's downfall.
The movie omits this entire pivotal event however, perhaps because the real-life event, that for a genuine big-time dealer with $30m stashed in the house,at least, displayed a degree of stupidity and naievety that would make Johnny Depp's George (smart, hip, trusting)look stupid and just too unbelievable to be sympathetic.
Nor is there any factual basis for the whole father/daughter interplay in the movie, which I personally think is overdone, and is pretty out-of-character anyway.
Finally (at least for this review) the money George had stashed away in Panama, approx. $50m apparently, was not confiscated by the Panamanian Govt (Noriega)- George never visited Panama - but was stolen by the pilots who opened the bank account for George, (co-signatories) and flew the cash down on a regular basis over several years. It defies belief that over several years, George never thought to enquire about the balance of his account, and just kept shuttling the cash into the account, but that's what actually happened.
Carlos Lehder was arrested in Colombia - basically fingered by Escobar for bringing the heat down on the cartel because of his loopy political beliefs, extradited to the States, with George being the main prosecution witness. This gained George early release, and it was actually another bust in the mid-80's that reulted in George's present incarceration. Again, none of this was in the movie, although I think it would have brought another perspective to George's characterisation, and also given George some revenge for his beating by Carlos' thugs on Norman Cay (never happened) had it been included.
I guess all these and many more factual inaccuracies in combination with Johnny Depp's overly sympathetic portrayal of George - almost a victim of circumstance - and definitely too "nice" to be in the drug business, are so far off the real-deal that it made it very difficult for me to give this movie the respect that so many others think it deserves....
All this doesn't stop the movie being good entertainment but I can't help thinking how good it "could" have been, had it been a little more true to George's real story.
The cast is generally outstanding, the look and sound of the DVD transfer never less than luscious, and the soundtrack really brought back the 70s / early 80s for me - a time of bad fashion, worse haircuts, and for most of us, a time probably best forgotten.
Buy the DVD. The book "blow" is definitely worth reading, and if you're still interested in the whole coke thing, consider checking out the book titled "Killing Pablo" a factual look at the the coke business, the Medelin cartel, and the hunt-for and eventual killing of Pablo Escobar. Now "there's" a movie just begging to be made......
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on June 11, 2002
Director Ted Demme died from a drug overdose around a year after finishing Blow. One suspects that the highly talented Demme desired to confront his own demons while putting together this first rate film. Johnny Depp aptly portrays George Jung as a man who subtly, but most assuredly chose the path to self destruction. He is not a victim and deserves no pity. Is Jung a monster? Perhaps not, but he made his own bed and now has to lie in it. Jung is greatly responsible for introducing the horror of cocaine into the United States. He starts out as a typical teenager from a blue collar family. Jung's father (Ray Liotta) and mother (Rachel Griffiths) raises their family in a struggling middle class environment. During his early adult years, Jung travels to California and starts enjoying the wild parties, easy sex, and mind altering drugs. He eventually meets a major drug seller (Paul Reubens) who partners with him to market very large quantities of marijuana. Common sense dictates that sooner or later Jung will be arrested. Sadly, however, Jung is not only personally addicted to drugs but also the accompanying risky lifestyle. Rational considerations therefore will not stand in the way of Jung's slide into evil and debauchery.
We eventually accompany Jung to Columbia where he is promoted to the major leagues of drug running. Betrayal and back stabbing become the norm. He meets and marries Mirtha (Penelope Cruz), a woman is also a coke junkie and out of control pleasure seeker. Hedonism dominates their lifestyle, and money is so plentiful that neither knows how to spend it all. They flippantly make large purchases which soon bore them. Bringing a child into the world does little to encourage prudence. Their train is going to crash, and one can only hope the collateral damage is minimal. Our eyes are riveted to the screen as Jung is ultimately brought to a bad end. Ted Demme may have been too conflicted to unambiguously present George Jung as a moral monster deserving of severe punishment, but we never mistake him for some sort of misunderstood folk hero.
Blow will force you to wonder if our drug laws make any sense. Is it truly worth the damage to our political and public institutions to continue criminalizing such activity? Jung, after all, may be still be in jail, but his successors remain on the street. I also recommend Traffic and the utterly fantastic and overlooked masterpiece, Rush. And yes, parents should definitely encourage their adolescent children to view this disturbing film.
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on May 27, 2001
This movie is based on a true life story. Johnny Depp, is unexplainably fantastic as Boston George. It goes to show, you never get away with dirty deeds through life, the movie is outstanding! Ray Loitta was above all, great in the movie as George's dad and his quote "money is not everything" should be carefully adopted by people this day . Even though George Jung was wrong his father holds his son close among being very disconneted with him-will leave you very emotional. Go see this movie, granted you will love it also. Penelope Cruze, was sensational. My comments to the director Tedd Demme great movie and you couldn't have chose a better George than Johnny Depp. It was real life on the big screen and if you miss this movie in the theatre by all means you must get it on DVD! Although, it depicts drug dealing in America, it also shows what a terrrible life one will choose for doing so. The ending will grab you by the heart.
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on March 19, 2004
"Blow" is based on the true story of George Jung (Johnny Depp in one of his best roles), the loving son of a struggling businessman (Ray Liotta) who, as a child, upon seeing his family struggle to make ends meet and witnessing his mother's (Rachel Griffiths) resentment for his father because of their low income, vows to never be poor. Thus ensues Jung's descent into the world of drugs. He begins his three-decade rise and abrupt fall as a drug lord smuggling pot into the US in his early 20's during the pot-crazed 60's, which garners him an enormous amount of cash. After landing a lengthy jail sentence, he meets Diego Delgado (Jordi Mollà) in jail who introduces George to the far more profitable world of cocaine dealing. He soon shoots to the top of the game and his biggest problem becomes where to put all of his cash. It is said that if you used cocaine during the 70's and 80's, there's an 85% chance it came from Jung.
Over the years he struggles with a crack-addicted wife (Penélope Cruz as you've never seen her before), the relationship with his young daughter, and maintaining his relationship with the only person who truly cares for him in the world, his father. Additionally, Jung is portrayed in a sympathetic light as a nice guy who just makes some bad decisions. Usually I disagree with this type of "glamorization" of criminals, but I feel that in Jung's case it is truly deserved.
"Blow" is not only the fascinating, pulse-pounding, and historically informative chronicle of the rise and fall of one of America's most influential drug lords; it also the exploration of some very deep personal connections, such as very deep father/son connection between George and his father. In addition, George's love for his daughter, who ends up being the single thing motivating him to stay alive throughout his jail sentences, delivers a powerful emotional impact in the film's final scenes. I also appreciated how director Ted Demme delicately showed us the parallels between George's mother's resentment for his father and George's wife's resentment for him after he loses most of his money as well as George's struggle to be a good father just as his own father did.
The final scenes of "Blow" are surprisingly moving, which ultimately distinguishes it from all of the other crime films out there.
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on January 30, 2006
Of all the movies that I've seen Johnny Depp in, this by far is his best work to date. He portrays George Jung so perfectly. He should have gotten Oscar consideration for this part. You also have excellent performances from other actors such as Jordi Molla, Ray Liotta, and Penelope Cruz. Blow is the pursuit of The American Dream gone terribly wrong. It's so well made yet very depressing. This is a very powerful motion picture with strong performances all-around. A must buy for your movie collection!
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on September 14, 2001
There was a time when I didn't like Johnny Depp. I used to steer clear of his films simply because I had a pre-concieved notion in my mind that I wasn't going to enjoy myself watching Johnny Depp. All this changed however after I saw "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". And once again, I am impressed with Depp's work, this time in the movie Blow. Depp's portrayal of legendary cocaine dealer George Jung is wonderful. He makes Jung such a likeable person that you don't want to see anything bad happen to the guy, even if he is waste deep in cocaine. Another thing I found interesting about this movie was its almost non-existent use of sex and violence. The story itself, of a middle class kid from Massachusetts growing up to be America's number one coke dealer with simple business savvy is so intriguing that it didn't need the usual drug-dealer movie cliches. Killer flick.
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on April 28, 2001
Blow is just a few weeks old and already it's drawing comparisions to such contemporary classics as Boogie Nights and Goodfellas, to which it's not entirely deserving of but the mere mention of those far superior films is flatterment enough. Johnny Depp stars as George Jung, a small time pot dealer who after taking his first collar flees on bail and winds up serving hard time. As it turns out prision does little to deter his appetite for his profession (that is if you consider drug dealing a "profession") and after five years inside he promotes himself to cocaine, which at the time was pretty obscure in the states.
The first half hour of the film deals with his humble beginnings as a child, which leads him to make a deal with himself that he'll never be poor like his father whose been made to live from paycheck to paycheck all of his life. So as soon as he's old enough he flees to California with his lumbersome friend Tuna (Ethan Suplee of American History X) and the two take up dealing on the beach. They're brought into the business after meeting a bisexual hairstylist with an antrepreneurial spirit (Paul "Pee Wee" Reubens), whom they're introduced to through George's girlfriend, Barbra.
Being as it's the 60's and the marketplace has exploded they move the "stuff" with ease, until they decide to expand eastward. Getting enough pot to supply the New England states and then finding a way to transport it there proves to be difficult. But George's ambition won't let little details like this get in the way of his dream of financial independence. So he steals a plane, flies over the boarder, flies back, and lands in an uninhabited desert out in the middle of nowhere. It's really very clever and given that Johnny's such a charismatic character we're rooting for him all the way.
But if things were always great for George a movie wouldn't have been made about his life. He's caught with two suitcases of marijuana at O'Hare in Chicago and while he's out on bond discovers that Barbra's dying of cancer and will likely die while he's incarcerated. Faced with a moral dilemma George does the noble thing (or at least in my mind anyway) and flees to Mexico with Barbra so that he can see her through her final days. And upon returning home his image-conscious, money-driven mother gives him up to the police.
It's then, while serving out this sentence, that George meets up with a Columbian cellmate who introduces him to the world of cocaine smuggling. As he puts it, "I went in with a bachelor's in pot and came out with a master's in coke." After being paroled just three years into his five year term, George begins running errands for his new found partner which eventually lands him a duffel bag full of blow. With serious money staring him right in the eye, he violates parole, returns to Los Angeles and discovers that the demand for his product has skyrocketed, now in the 1970's. He's moves three hundred thousand dollars of nose candy in just three days.
So now he needs a Columbian connection, leading him into a professional friendship with the now infamous Pablo Escobar (vividly potrayed by Three King's Cliff Curtis), and the two team up to puportedly supply eighty-five percent of the country's coke (I wonder if that's including the handiwork of Ronald Reagan and company during Iran-Contra?). Either way this is an extraordinary entertaining movie that since I've seen it I just can't stop thinking about.
Johnny Depp is nothing short of a marvel as George, keeping the ship afloat during the lulls in the story and breaking our hearts at it's conclusion. You know you've seen something special when after watching a film about a remoreseless drug dealer you're wiping away a tear that you've shed on his behalf. This is a superb movie that I'm convinced will only endear itself to me more as time goes on.
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on July 9, 2015
Having already read the book "Blow" - available from Amazon and an excellent biography.

Director Ted Demme died from a drug overdose around a year after finishing Blow. One suspects that the highly talented Demme desired to confront his own demons while putting together this first rate film. Johnny Depp aptly portrays George Jung as a man who subtly, but most assuredly chose the path to self destruction. He is not a victim and deserves no pity. Is Jung a monster? Perhaps not, but he made his own bed and now has to lie in it. Jung is greatly responsible for introducing the horror of cocaine into the United States. He starts out as a typical teenager from a blue collar family. Jung's father (Ray Liotta) and mother (Rachel Griffiths) raises their family in a struggling middle class environment. During his early adult years, Jung travels to California and starts enjoying the wild parties, easy sex, and mind altering drugs. He eventually meets a major drug seller (Paul Reubens) who partners with him to market very large quantities of marijuana. Common sense dictates that sooner or later Jung will be arrested. Sadly, however, Jung is not only personally addicted to drugs but also the accompanying risky lifestyle. Rational considerations therefore will not stand in the way of Jung's slide into evil and debauchery.
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on May 4, 2014
This movie, surprisingly, had fatherhood at it's moral center. We see Jung's childhood and how, despite the best efforts of his father (Ray Liotta), his son's life (and Jung's own opportunity to be a good father) went crazily out of control. And at the end, we are shown that involvement in the narcotics business is not compatible with fatherhood. The movie asks to be judged on that moral conclusion, even though the subject could have explored in various other directions, it only briefly touches on other themes. The morality and consequences of creating a culture of addiction is barely explored- not that I think the movie is obliged to address that, but the viewer should be aware that the subject is not explored, and was a bit disappointing in that area. It doesn't go after big, grandiose themes of greed and betrayal like in Scarface, in part because Jung doesn't have an epic tragic end, he just fails when he tries to do some right things too late. After making moral compromises, he is unable to put anything in his life right. At least in the movie's version of the events, Jung could have started a drug war to defend his "honor" and status among the cocaine dealers, but instead he drops out and is punished with the consequences of doing so. It occurred to me during the film that, ironically, he might have had better opportunities of being a better father if he were a more ruthless, vengeful figure in the vicious business of drug dealing. Like real life, the moral choices are messy and untidy and not satisfying. Maybe if the film focussed more tightly on the themes of redemption and forgiveness, it would have been a great film. As it is, only a good film that still raises interesting questions, but it doesn't do much to motivate the audience to reflect.
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