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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.25%
Worth A Look38.75%
Average: 21.25%
Pretty Bad: 7.5%
Total Crap: 1.25%

13 reviews, 82 user ratings

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by Greg Muskewitz

"A judgment call."
4 stars

In the same sense of "The Dish" being very documentary-like, "Blow" very strongly follows with the narrative of the book it was taken from, though you can easily tell that director Ted Demme and screenwriters Nick Cassavetes and David McKenna are selective in what they choose to tell and how to shape your impressions and feelings of George Jung. And much of that is again like "The Dish" because this is based on a true story.

A squeaky-clean, white kid of an economically pinched family (Ray Liotta and Rachel Griffiths) grows up to be the not-so-white Johnny Depp, or George Jung (pronounced as "young"), a naive slacker/hippie who has moved with his big friend (Tuna) from Massachusetts out to the sunny beaches of Cali. To bring in the funds, they start selling pot, and it becomes big, but not nearly as big as they could have expected. Before they know it, with the help of George's girlfriend Barbara (Franka Potente), a stewardess, they were flying large quantities of the drug to their homebase. Then in Chicago, George is busted for have possession of 660-pounds of it, and put in jail.

While there, he meets up with Diego Delgado (Jordi Molla) who teaches him pot is only for little league. Instead, once out, the two begin the largest supply of pure Colombian cocaine into the US. ("Pure as the driver's snow. Disco shit") Like the characters of "Requiem for a Dream," there is that temporary high, the grand feeling of success, that outreach for more, but similarly, it will all come crashing down.

"Blow" is another attempt, like Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem," for the characters, or here at least George Jung, to be humanized, cared about, viewed not only as a refractory drug supplier. I can hardly deem the "drug genre" to be a trendy subject to hit on, but filmmakers seem to think differently, because at least recently with the well-received ilk of "Requiem" and Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic," audiences seem to be into it. But this humanization of people, real or not, like Jung or Harry Goldfarb, Sara Goldfarb, Tyrone and Marion is an interesting debate. Is it wrongful to understand what these people were attempting to grasp --a certain material status? Is it wrongful to feel bad for Jung over the loss of his daughter, the breaking of his promise? I lean towards "yes." I do not agree with what they have done or were doing, and I may not like them as people either, but the judgment is strictly reserved not to that of their character, but to the disillusionment of their actions. These things happen all the time, and even the most devout humanitarian could hardly devote enough time and sympathy to each of these astray individuals, looking at it as an ill of society, it isn't pleasant and it is sad.

But part of the whole acceptance and humanizing comes with an obvious bias from Demme. After speaking with him during a press-day in Los Angeles, one walks away knowing that Demme likes Jung and wants to present him in the best light as possible. This is an unfair manipulation. Already, the story, the biography by Bruce Porter is being neutered, but the center and anti-hero of our movie (Demme does identify him as an anti-hero), the whole overview of Jung's actions are being skimmed over and extenuated. It causes the viewer, or at least me, to lose sight of his offences in order to "like him." But if his reasoning for involvement in the drug cartel is acceptable for the espoused reasons, then there must be so many others like him just begging for our forgiveness as well. As much as I don't mind the George Jung that Johnny Depp plays, it is a necessity for me to keep in mind that this is how they want us to see him.

As a movie, the beginning has got it down. The look of the movie is nicely cultivated, and it's got the music, the look and the wigs of the '70s. Ellen Kuras uses the process of Skip Bleaching I believe (like "Stigmata"), so mood and ambience is accounted for. The storytelling technique --using narration only to explain the minute details it doesn't want to show, doesn't have the time to show, or just to flower up the descriptions-- is a little less appropriate and a little more convenient. (Like Dirk Diggler, he happily announces, "I'm great at what I do." Or "I went in [prison] with a Bachelors in marijuana, and came out with a Doctorate in cocaine," or "We had the world by the short and curlies") "Blow" is far less compelling for its story and its advocacy for Jung, than it is for its exceptionally talented cast.

When it comes to direction, Demme is deftly talented as an ensemble director. He's been around longer than Paul Thomas Anderson, but he's already cast in his shadow, but similarly, the two directors like to use their actors to the fullest of their abilities. Unfortunately, Demme was a little preoccupied here (as opposed to "Beautiful Girls" and "Life") and didn't use as much of many of the actors as he could have, but the performances are not disappointing. Reaching for diversity, my favorite casting choice by far was Franka Potente, or known to most others as Lola from Germany's "Run Lola Run." She goes from bright red there, to a more active orange (like Vitamin C), and only on occasion is there evidence that she is not American. But Potente is gone for far too long, far too fast. Ray Liotta turns in some good work along with Ethan Suplee, Molla and Max Perlich. Everybody's It Girl, Penelope Cruz who is given second billing, is not around for long. Or more over, when she does finally show up three-quarters into the movie, it is not long before it's over. But any fuss that might have been created, isn't really necessary, as she is overdrawn, over-performed, and very shallow. Paul Reubens adds some fun to his scenes, and gets ample opportunities for that. As for Depp, we've seen him in a state and time period not too far off from this --Hunter S. Thompson in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," and frankly, he does much better with that. In his younger days, Depp has much more control and maneuverability with him, but as time and weight progress (a fake looking prosthetic belly to boot), he becomes more of a caricature and more of a repeat.

Demme uses the actors in the best way possible. Even the lesser, or lesser-screen-timed roles are what especially make this worth seeing. But I also give credit to Demme for the scarcity of violence and sex in the movie. Language is another thing, but the way that Demme only uses it when necessary (which in his opinion was very little), the balance he creates is quite noticeable. It's appreciated. And as much as I find it a stretch for us just to abandon our regards of Jung as a criminal than just as a good person, I do hope he finds reconciliation with his daughter, Kristina.

Final Verdict: B.

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originally posted: 04/09/01 19:06:47
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell gritty but nothing special 3 stars
9/03/14 Celeste Garcia This movie was beyond the best. 5 stars
7/11/13 Jeff Wilder Derivative sure. But well-directed and fantastic performances from Depp and Liotta. 4 stars
11/11/10 Lundon johnny depp is amazing no matter what movie he does and blow makes you feel like your there 4 stars
4/03/08 Tiffanie I loved this movie! Its prolly one of the best by far 5 stars
1/05/08 Pamela White drug dealing and the paranoic life they lead 3 stars
12/09/07 SamanthaP johnny depp is good in anything! 4 stars
11/13/07 Ashley i love this movie very sad 5 stars
10/08/07 KNurse I have watched this movie several times.....awesome fucking movie 5 stars
1/03/06 Wiseman I loved this movie! i watched it 10 times 5 stars
12/19/05 Bree Outstanding all around. 5 stars
12/01/05 john smith it is ok 3 stars
11/22/05 Emily I can watch this movie over and over 5 stars
11/21/05 ad excellent 5 stars
10/31/05 Stephanie This is my favorite movie! 5 stars
9/15/05 shawn great fucking movie 5 stars
8/04/05 D.K. great cast, good grasp of the facts 5 stars
4/21/05 Evka cool movie 5 stars
8/18/04 Violeta perfect! 5 stars
7/24/04 Sandy Turynowicz too much info. I didn't need 2 stars
7/08/04 Denise Duspiva May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face and may the winds of destiny 5 stars
6/23/04 Jack Sommersby Obvious, uninsightful and blandy directed. Depp is wasted; Liotta only bright spot. 1 stars
6/08/04 Darryl Stavena The most romantic way to see the life of a drug-dealer 5 stars
3/10/04 Ash Everything about this movie makes you a die-hard depp fan! 5 stars
2/22/04 8=====D COKE RULES!!!! 5 stars
1/26/04 R.W. Welch Familiar tale of rise/fall of drug lord, professional work tho. 3 stars
1/14/04 josh mentzer great movie 4 stars
1/08/04 Kim it was great and johnny depp was so sexy i loved it! 5 stars
10/25/03 Samuel Great film, based on a true story and that makes it that much better! 5 stars
8/28/03 Mr. Hat One great film. Great acting, great directing, one powerful ending. 5 stars
8/01/03 Samantha Macias I thoght this movie was interesting, and very sad!! 5 stars
5/04/03 sleepy this film made me feel pity for a drug dealer! 5 stars
4/27/03 tyler reiter greatest fucking movie of all time 5 stars
4/17/03 George Jung One of the best biopics of recent memory. 5 stars
2/06/03 123 a shorter, less violent, inferior version of goodfellas 3 stars
1/08/03 val Fucking Awesome 5 stars
12/31/02 Tam Interesting depiction of a life ruined by drugs. 4 stars
12/31/02 Jack Sommersby Blow me! 1 stars
7/27/02 karen goldstein extremely entertaining - johnny depp deserved an oscar for best actor!!!! 5 stars
7/14/02 sdjfsdkjf Depp, great but once Barb died boring. Penelope needs fucking English lessons, "hypocrite"? 3 stars
5/13/02 bubba ray dudley must see 5 stars
4/30/02 Andy (Big A) dis was one of the best movies ever big ups to my boy jung and soon you will be free 2015. 5 stars
4/10/02 Butterbean A wonderful movie! Far superior to that overrated Requiem for a Dream 5 stars
4/07/02 Cardo Elins Outstanding 5 stars
3/30/02 Victor Villalba Good with some assumptions 4 stars
2/21/02 luda hoe it was fun. i want to do coke now, but still, it was fun 4 stars
2/17/02 Clarance Jonny Depp - Great job - Depicted the harsh reality of how fucked up life can be 5 stars
1/30/02 Phil M. Afficianado Erik the Movieman states my views. Depp is terrific and ages realistically in the film. 4 stars
1/01/02 calvin cellars best based on a true story movie ever made 5 stars
12/28/01 Evil Bitchwoman pretty cool movie i guess so u should go see it. Cruz is a mental Slut though 4 stars
9/25/01 Monday Morning Great characters bring this story to life. It's not great but it shore is fun. 4 stars
9/04/01 Alan The Spanish bitch sleeps with everybody and I despise her. 3 stars
8/18/01 Obi Wan Wow! 1 of the best flicks I've seen in this movie tix inflation era! 5 stars
6/03/01 Richard Wright Does nothing to lift it out of a tired genre, overlong and dramatically shallow to boot. 3 stars
5/28/01 Connor Dueck a slightly different look at the drug game 5 stars
5/24/01 Christine It is the best movie ive ever seen!! 5 stars
5/20/01 A Williams I went in there expecting crap, but it was a really excellent movie, i recommend it 4 stars
5/16/01 Misa The movie was actually pretty great, definately not boring like I thought it would be. 4 stars
4/26/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) An aquired taste...and I suggest everyone acquire it... 4 stars
4/26/01 Todd Very cool, but if he hasn't seen his daughter while in prison, why did she act in the movie 4 stars
4/26/01 Brian After Pacino in "Scarface", all these other drug-lord movies pale by comparison 3 stars
4/24/01 Pete Sweet movie. Go see it. Johnny Depp is the best character actor in America right now. 5 stars
4/23/01 Girl 9 The Depp track record for making decent films sucks, but this one is worth seeing. 4 stars
4/19/01 Joe Awesome! Another movie Depp will be overlooked 5 stars
4/16/01 ChiefAlDog I wanted more explanation of how he avoided his parole officer time and again. 4 stars
4/14/01 Bill B Best I've seen in a long time. PeeWee was great. Tear jerker for any man with a daughter. 5 stars
4/14/01 Clarance A Cross between Trainspotting and Traffic...but BETTER! Fantastic and Powerful!! 5 stars
4/11/01 gabi Says it all--the good and bad of life; Depp incredible; very awsome film 5 stars
4/11/01 Nick A little on the depressing side, but a good film with an interesting comment on life. 4 stars
4/11/01 alanis I think you are very unfair with johnny, he makes an excellent performance, as usual 4 stars
4/11/01 scott awesome 5 stars
4/09/01 The Bomb 69 some cliches but overall an interesting look at a flawed and tragic character 4 stars
4/09/01 poetchuck Engaging story 4 stars
4/08/01 grunter If "Scarface" were a T.V. movie, it'd still have more substance and grit than "Blow" 2 stars
4/08/01 malcolm realest, most sympathetic drug dealer character in a while, maybe ever 5 stars
4/08/01 frankko nothing we haven't seen before. (and not enough paul reubens.) 2 stars
4/08/01 rue the whirl fairly dull and tiresome 3 stars
4/07/01 fishfry Last hour excruciatingly boring. Major disappointment 2 stars
4/07/01 brent young not given away in the previews, this movie was very good. worth a definate look. 5 stars
4/06/01 Megan Uninspired direction, a badly written script, and a horrible performance by Penelope Cruz 2 stars
4/03/01 Marcy Skenderian Per the WGA, it should read "Written by David McKenna and Nick Cassavetes" 5 stars
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  06-Apr-2001 (R)


  23-Aug-2001 (M)

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