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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 Collin Souter

"Cliches Blow Opportunity For Greatness"
3 stars

Had Ted Demme’s new movie “Blow” been released 10 years ago, we might have had a masterpiece here. It has classic American tragedy dealing with the drug culture’s impact on the nuclear family, a storyline that spans decades, and a real-life figure who lived through it all and whose story has yet to come to a full close. Unfortunately, we’ve seen it all before. While “Blow” has (mostly) solid performances and some moving moments, it never tires of reminding us of other movies that told the same story, mainly “GoodFellas,” “Casino,” and to a certain extent “Boogie Nights.”

“Blow” tells the story of George Jung (Johnny Depp) who had the biggest helping hand in importing cocaine from the fields of Columbia to America. “If you bought cocaine anytime in the late 70’s to early 80’s, chances are it came from us,” Jung tells us in voice-over.

The film begins with Jung as a boy whose parents, especially his father, can’t seem to catch a financial break. The Jung family live in a little suburban home where George’s mother Ermine (Rachel Griffiths) leaves the family out of frustration only to come back at Christmas time to a young son who can’t bring himself to hug her and a husband who couldn’t be happier to have her back. When financial disaster strikes, Jung’s father Fred (Ray Liotta) tells George that “that’s the way life is” when you can’t have everything you want or need. Jung makes a promise to himself that he will never live his life the same way his parents did.

Fast-forward 10 years later. George moves out to California, continues a boyhood friendship with a bear-like behemoth with a sweet smile named Tuna (Ethan Suplee), and hooks up with a flamboyant hairdresser-cum-pot-dealer, played to the hilt by Paul Reubins (a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman). Along with Jung’s new stewardess girlfriend Barbara (Franka Potente of “Run Lola Run”) and a friend of his from Boston named Kevin (Max Perlich), George and Tuna decide to go into business for themselves. Soon, they rake in six figure salaries, but it hardly seems enough.

George becomes an expert on the subject of drug importation. So much so that after he gets busted, he offers to teach his fellow prison inmates a class on the ins and outs of such operations. This offer elicits the keen interest of a Columbian inmate named Diego, who happens to have drug cartel connections on the outside. A few years later, Diego introduces George Jung to iron-fisted Pablo Escobar (Cliff Curtis), a man who did for cocaine what Bill Gates did for the home computer.

And we pretty much know what will happen next. Once you bring cocaine into the picture, the story can really only go one way. Cocaine will get people high, the people who sell it will get greedy, the people who sniff it (often the same) will have their judgment clouded and drug deals will result in violence. While I applaud Demme for keeping the violence to a bare minimum, I can’t help but wonder how much better the movie had been if he had played up the family drama for all its worth.

“Blow” focuses mainly on George’s lifestyle as a drug smuggler, and it does so in a distracting copycat sort of way. We get George’s “GoodFellas”-like deadpan narration that tells us what we can see clearly with our eyes.
“Those were tough times.”
“After she died, everything changed.”
“They set me up.”

And we get the montages that force the story to be told in a rapid-fire pace. Cut! Freeze-frame! Zoom in! Repeat! Cut! Freeze-frame! Zoom-in! Repeat! “Blow” will be seen as a departure for Demme, who made two of my favorite comedies of all time (“Beautiful Girls” and “The Ref”). Demme has said that he freely stole from Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson. I agree that if you must steal, steal from the best, but why be obvious about it? It would have been more interesting to see how Demme could have told this story without resorting to the devices that made Scorsese’s and Anderson’s movies so popular. The result doesn’t come of as a brave departure, but more of a wannabe. Since “Blow” didn’t separate itself from its inspirations, most of the time I wondered why this story needed to be told.

In the second half, Jung meets a party girl named Mirtha (an annoying Penelope Cruz). He eventually marries her and they have a kid. Every time George and Mirtha have a vicious verbal fight about money, we get a shot of their young daughter looking sad. We know that Jung did not want to end up living as his parents did, always fighting about money, so why not delve into that a little deeper in that moment? He has clearly turned into his father.

“Blow” usually works best when it focuses on George Jung’s relationship with his parents. An interesting dynamic existed between George and his father. While George didn’t want to turn out poor as his father did, he still sought his father’s approval, all while George’s mother sat in the corner giving both of them a disapproving look. Here, the movie separates itself from the rest and finds its voice, but the voice falls silent too often while the rest of the story shouts at us.

The movie finally got under my skin at the end when I felt moved by what had happened. Yet, at the same time, I felt distracted because of the over-done make-up effects. In a way, that just about sums up the whole experience. While “Blow” certainly has its moments of greatness, it tries too hard to sell us a product we would have bought had they not pushed it too hard.

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originally posted: 04/06/01 14:07:44
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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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