In drama there are two types of productions; the comedy, for happy endings and the tragedy for the sad endings. I suppose tragic would used to described the life of George Jung, which is racked with
disappointment, lies, betrayal, deceit, money, and of course, lots of drugs. "Blow" is the cinematic version of an "Intimate Portrait" of George Jung (Johnny Depp), the man who claims to be responsible
for importing 3/4 of the cocaine into the U.S. in the late 70's to early 80's.
The story begins as George reminisces about being a youngster in Massachusetts living in a home where his father didn't make enough money to please his dissatisfied mother who frequently leaves them. George makes a vow never end up in the same financial situation as his parents. In pursuit of this dream he and a friend Tuna (Ethan Suplee), trek to sunny Manhattan Beach, CA (with no money or job) and move into a beachfront house. They need to pay the rent and devise a "marketing" plan...selling pot to the beach crowd. Things work out well and George becomes known all over Manhattan Beach as the go-to-guy for marijuana. Eventually, he meets and falls in love with beach bunny, Barbara (Franka Potente: "Run Lola Run"), a flight attendant who becomes a mule in their smuggling operation.
Barabara later introduces him to the flamboyant dresser Derek (Paul Rubens) and together they decide to buy marijuana "from the source", e.g. Mexico, to maximize profits instead of going through a middleman. Business flourishes and the gang decided to expand the operation to the East Coast and how the money rolls in. Life is going well for George and Barbara until he gets busted in Chicago and is looking at a 2 year hitch, and finds out that Barbara won't be able to wait for him that long. He becomes a fugitive from the law and runs the only place he feels he can hide, home to his parents. Jung drinks with his father (Ray Liotta) who indicates, while he doesn't approve of how the money is made, he is not as ashamed as his unyielding mother (Rachel Griffiths) who later turns on him.
Jung then goes to prison where he becomes cellmates with Diego (Jordi Molla); a Colombian who asks George is he has heard of "something called cocaine". Once George is paroled, Diego arranges for him to travel to Colombia to meet with the King of the Medellin Cartel, (a skinny) Pablo Escobar (Cliff Curtis) and makes a deal that nabs him the first several million of his ultimate $60 dollar fortune. The Colombians accept him into their circle even further with George's marriage to Mirtha (the lovely Penelope Cruz) who bridges the thorny gap between him and the Colombian cocaine aristocracy, who persistently press him for his U.S contact (Derek). They were young, rich and living the good life. However, once again George hits a patch of ice and skid as his relationship with Diego and the Colombians goes sour and Derek betrays him. It seems that George quits the business and settles down to be a family man, and channels his attention to the only thing that matters in his life, his daughter Kristina. His slice of the American fantasy doesn't last long as George is busted by the Feds and is looking at prison time again.
Once again he is a fugitive on the run but has nowhere to run to. His parents turn him away, Mirtha abandons him, and his ties to the Columbians are severed. In one last hurrah, in an attempt to get back in the good graces of both Mirtha, and especially his estranged daughter, Jung meets his final downfall. The broken trust doesn't bother Jung as much as the broken promise to his daughter that resulted.
Despite the tragic ending, it is unlikely that you will feel sorry for Jung. Perhaps he should have been more careful. Perhaps he should have quit while he was ahead. Perhaps he got too big for his britches. We don't know, as it never gets explored. The character of Jung did not grow and evolve as much as his hairstyles, not to mention that Jung himself was really not all that interesting to begin with.
Blow brings to mind Goodfellas, but not as absorbing. I give the film a B, because of Ted Demme's cinematography, eventhough the script leaves something to be desired at times. A few scenes could have been left on the cutting room floor, like the initial encounter between George and Mirtha and the final scene of the film, including the dismal picture of the real-life George Jung.
I would recommend seeing "Traffic" in addition to this movie, but see "Traffic" first.
Billz Movie Worthiness Scale: B
Billz Movie Worthiness Scale Values:
A = movie tickets and popcorn for 2 (about $40)
B = buy the DVD when it comes out ($25)
C = rent it
D = wait for it to be on cable/pay TV
E = wait for it to be on regular TV
All Hail The Czarina