A boy named George Jung grows up in a struggling family in the 1950's. His mother nags at her husband as he is trying to make a living for the family. It is finally revealed that George's father cannot make a living and the family goes bankrupt. George does not want the same thing to happen to him, and his friend Tuna, in the 1960's, suggests that he deal marijuana. He is a big hit in California in the 1960's, yet he goes to jail, where he finds out about the wonders of cocaine. As a result, when released, he gets rich by bringing cocaine to America. However, he soon pays the price. Written by
The effects of lacking the fortitude and conscience to make the right choices in life are examined in `Blow,' directed by Ted Demme and starring Johnny Depp as George Jung, a young New Englander who decides early on that living week to week and barely being able to make ends meet is not the kind of life he wants. George grew up in the 50s, in a decent, middle-class family, but was deeply affected by the fact that his father, Fred (Ray Liotta), worked his fingers to the bone as a plumber, sometimes fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, and it was never enough, especially for his mother, Ermine (Rachel Griffiths), who complained endlessly about not having enough money. More than once she abandoned her family, only to be taken back every time upon her return by Fred, who adored her. Then, in the late 60s, George, along with his childhood friend, Tuna (Ethan Suplee), moved to Southern California and quickly discovered the freedom of the beaches and a lifestyle conducive to his idea of paradise. That `paradise' being anchored in the realization of the big, easy money to be made at the time selling marijuana; and for George, it was only the beginning, the on-ramp to the freeway that would ultimately take him to the top of his `profession,' and which was destined to define his life.
It's a tale as old as time, the lesson of which is destined forever-- unfortunately-- to be ignored by those who seek the quick and easy road to wealth and happiness. Courage, it has been said, has many faces; one kind earns soldiers and citizens medals for rising above imminent danger. Another can be defined as being able to decline the carrot of ill-gotten gains when it is dangled before you. George lacked that kind of courage, and instead grabbed the promise it proffered with both hands, only to discover-- too late-- that it was empty indeed, and laced with unhappiness. It's a classic rags-to-riches-to-oblivion story, with a moral that will be embraced by those with the wisdom to build their house of brick instead of sticks and straw.
As George, Depp turns in a convincing, believable performance, portraying him as a misguided, rather than `bad' person. You sense that George's naivete enabled him to take chances and enter an arena to which common sense would otherwise have dictated avoidance, and because of that you are able to sympathize somewhat with him. Depp lends an innocence to the character in which you can find the kid next door, the good kid you grew up with and knew throughout your school years, and in retrospect, it would seem that George, a reasonably intelligent young man, simply made some very stupid decisions. And, as they say, the prisons are full of those just like him. But the most telling indication of who George really is and what he could/should have been, comes through his relationship with his father. And it is that which becomes the very core of the story.
As Fred Jung, Ray Liotta gives a poignant performance, presenting a very real person in a very real setting. completely avoiding any kind of stereotype into which this character could easily have fallen, Liotta plays him with a depth that averts sentimentality and makes the unconditional love he shows for his son entirely believable. It's a direct and understated performance that so clearly defines the true character of the man, and it is in the scenes between Liotta and Depp that the true nature of George is revealed as well, in which you begin to understand that he was just an ordinary guy who got caught up in extraordinary circumstances of his own design.
The supporting cast includes Penelope Cruz (Mirtha), Franka Potente (Barbara), Paul Reubens (Derek Foreal), Jordi Molla (Diego), Cliff Curtis (Escobar) and Max Perlich (Dulli). A cautionary tale for those who allow themselves to stray from the straight and narrow, the real impact of `Blow' is ultimately contained in the final frame of the film. It is a still picture of the real George Jung; and to fully realize what his life has been about, you need look no further than into the eyes of the man in that photograph. I rate this one 8/10.
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