Scott Hardie | September 12, 2001
This evening I rented "Blow" because I had to review it for the newspaper. I wanted to see the movie anyway, because of glowing recommendations from Anna and Kevin and Matt, but the assignment was the compelling reason. Anyway, rather than talk about it, let me just cut and paste the review.

Is being very good at something enough to justify its inherent criminality?

George Jung, busted in Chicago in 1972 near the beginning of his long and lucrative career as a drug trafficker, offered just such a justification in his defense. But he didn't need his own justification. He did it because he didn't want to get a real job.

"Blow" stars Johnny Depp as Jung, who claimed to import 85% of the cocaine into the United States in the late seventies. Jung fell into drug trafficking by chance, and enjoyed it when it was small time and things were simple.

But trafficking is a spectacularly dangerous career choice, and "Blow" is as much about Jung's perilous fall as his shiny rise. Half of the movie is devoted to each, with exotic locales, understated performances, and heartfelt regret throughout.

The movie is based on the as-told-to biography by Bruce Porter, and one can feel Jung wanting to yell out the injustices done to him in his life, to lessen their burden on his being. One by one, the people who Jung counted on in his life betrayed him.

Granted, it's his side of the story, and a Hollywood version at that, so truth is not guaranteed. But it still makes for a compelling picture about coming to regret not just the mistakes of youth, but not caring about them at the time.

Depp, always a hard-working actor, wears the role like a heavy coat, muttering and sullen and strung out in nearly every scene in the movie. There are numerous good supporting players, from Jordi Mollà as the contact who takes Jung's business to the next level, to Emma Roberts, as Jung's bitter, disbelieving daughter.

Especially good are Rachel Griffiths and Ray Liotta as Jung's parents. In the childhood scenes, we see Jung observing a parental relationship that sets that standard for his own family, when he marries a sexy Columbian (Penélope Cruz) and sees her turn into a shrill, abusive monster before his and his daughter's eyes.

Even in its highs, the film maintains a mellow, somber tone that turns especially soulful in the final scenes, as Jung reflects on how pathetic a life he's led. Director Ted Demme deserves credit for steering the ambitious picture through to its sad, quiet, reflective end.

Some critical theories dictate that a movie cannot be perfect unless it has meaning, and "Blow" does not. But films are also forms of creative expression, and this is the filmed version of George Jung's cry of agonizing self-pity. It's a film about feeling, not meaning.

"Blow" reminds us that there are always people with greater reason to regret their lives more than we do ours. It's one of the best biopics of the year.

[3.5 out of 4 stars]

Anna Gregoline | September 12, 2001
Wow. Glad you liked it Scott. It was both a "fun romp" and depressing enough to make me weepy at the end, which proved to me it was a good thing. It was also (side note) the first and only film I've seen with Kris Weberg.

And I don't usually want to jump Johnny Depp's bones, but this movie did it for me.

Scott Hardie | September 13, 2001
If there was an Oscar for Best Wigs, this movie should win it, simply by pure volume.


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