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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I find this movie VERY GOOD! In fact, the end nearly brought me to tears. This movie does something that shouldn't be, but it is. By the end of the movie, you feel SO SORRY for a drug dealing thief. It's amazing how they tell the story, and by the end you want to go see this man and say how sorry you were. I believe that it's one of Johnny's best roles and really makes you think some. This movie has been underrated by many people because it's about drugs, but the story is just a story, but the message it brings and the emotions it triggers, are lasting. I recommend this movie to anyone that wants to see a Good Film.
/ (2001) **** (out of four)
By Blake French:
I don't think George Jung was a corrupt, sleazy drug smuggler, but, more or less, a young businessman making money to support his family and wild lifestyle. That is what makes Ted Demme's "Blow" different from other drug movies-it does not portray its characters as addicted lowlifes, but as recklessly successful, high powered individuals who simply want to live the American dream. The film is based on the true story of George Jung, whose image went from the average Joe next door, a high-school football star from a small Massachusetts town, to the world's premiere importer of cocaine from Colombia's Medellin cartel, who once supplied the States with over 85% of the total amount of imported cocaine in the 1970's and 80's. "Blow" is one of the best movies of the year.
"Blow" covers a wide range of generations and locations, ranging from the turbulent 60's to the haze of the 80's, and from such areas of the North America like Massachusetts, Florida, Colombia, California, Mexico, New York and Illinois. The time and location span provided the filmmakers with a challenge. The film was shot in a variety of locations in Southern California and in Mexico. "It was a difficult film to schedule and shoot because it had so many different time periods. And since it was the story of a man's life, every scene was fairly brief which meant an incredible number of scenes to be shot," explains executive producer Georgia Kacandes.
Covering so many years in a single film also tests the ability of the film's costume designers and makeup artists. The wardrobes, makeup and hair styles appear authentic and impressive. This movie pays close attention to even some of the most minute of details.
George Jung's motives for pursuing drugs may have been triggered by his family life as a child. His father was a nobody construction worker who often struggled with money and his marriage. In the film, Ray Liotta plays George's poor but content father, with the versatile Rachel Griffiths as his bitter, unhappy mother. George vows to never live his life in poverty, no matter what.
He moves to California as a young adult where selling marijuana supports his independent lifestyle. Paul Reubens and Ethan Suplee play George's drug-dealing comrades. Eventually, the authorities send him to prison for a while, where he meets Diego Delgado (Jordi Molla). An insider in Colombia's rising drug trade, this man educates George about the profits of selling cocaine. After serving his time, Jung becomes partners with Pablo Escobar (Cliff Curtis), the billionaire godfather of international cocaine trafficking.
"Blow" displays a consistent and detailed portrait of the spectacular rise, and dramatic fall, of Jung and his travel towards turning powder cocaine into American's biggest drug problem. Ted Demme's direction is vivid, determined, and stylish. He reportedly conducted many interviews with the real life George Jung, as he makes very clear the early high life, and the dangerous reality of a drug smuggler's everyday lifestyle. Demme is careful to stay away from frequent potential distractions, like the drug use, side characters, family issues, and romantic interests. This is a vivid narrative of a very interesting character. It does display a message about drugs that we have seen before, but never in this stylishly innovative light.
Laced with amusing detail and probing awareness, "Blow" defies the usual road of drug movies and provides us with tension and interest from Jung's many experiences-risky border crossings, ferocious consultation, unexpected deception, the persistence of the authorities, and unconquerable temptations. But untimely the film shows the true tragedy of losing your dreams to greed and drugs.
Johnny Depp proves once again what a triumphant, adaptable actor he can be. He portrays George Jung with the perfect amount of greed, style, confusion, pride, and desperation. The real George Jung is in a prison cell in New York. Without possibility of parole, Jung's release date is scheduled for 2015. Depp acknowledged the responsibility that comes with dramatizing a true individual, but also the responsibility of the director. "I knew Ted was committed to the film, but I didn't understand how deeply committed he was to the real George."
"Blow" becomes one of the most intriguing movies of 2001, but it even suffers in comparison to the incomprehensible achievement director Darren Aronofsky accomplished last year with his disturbingly real display of the downward spiral of four drug addicts in "Requiem for a Dream." That film gave us a cinematic taste of what drug addicts experience through their addictions and depravity. "Blow" still shines a fresh new light on drugs in movies, and perceptively portrays the story of a person from whom many can learn.
I don't understand why many people I talked to either thought the film was
bad or mediocre. Sure, it isn't a "great" movie, but when was the last time
you saw 5 great movies in a row? A great movie comes along once in a blue
moon, depending on your definition of great. I personally was very engaged
in the plot. Johnny Depp gives a tour-de-force performance, fully engaging
himself in the character. I'm sure he did lots of research on George Jung
and tried to mimick his every mannerism, because this was far from a
half-baked effort. Then again, I don't ever recall Johnny Depp doing a
movie where he didn't put his full enthusiasm into the role. The movie has
many tragic moments and many funny moments. The film is a little over 2
hours long, but the time flew by in a breeze. I was so enlightened that I'm
anxious to do some research on the real George Jung. I'm not a fan of
Penelope Cruz, and they could've chosen a much better actress, but she's
only in the film about 20 or 30 minutes, so she isn't given enough time to
ruin the film. Paul Reubens gives a surprisingly earnest performance as a
flamboyant, bisexual hairdresser. It's too bad he's caught up in all this
controversy, because he seems to have sufficient range as an actor. I loved
hearing all the great classic rock songs in the soundtrack, and every time I
watch the film the songs get stuck in my head and I start singing them for
days on end.
"Blow" is a touching drama that doesn't try to exploit the world of drugs, nor condemn it. After seeing George's tragic outcomes as a world-class coke dealer, I doubt anyone would want to get in or get back into the "business," but that doesn't necessarily mean the message is preachy.
My score: 8 (out of 10)
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.
Having Watched all of the extras on the DVD version of Blow I have to come to a conclusion:- If you want to watch a film that tracks the whole life of someone who has literally been there and done that, then this film is for you. From the 'groovy' pot filled days of the sixties to the 'glossy' cocaine nights of the early eighties right up to the harsh reality of the present day. Blow takes everything that George Jung has lived through and why he has lived his life the way he has. All the colourful characters that he encounters merely help the story along, Depp is very much the centre of attention and he thrives in it. Notable performances also come from Ray Liotta as the understanding and loving father and Penelope Cruz for her transformation from love interest to greedy good for nothing cocaine addict. Lovers of modern day period films such as Catch Me if You Can will love the detailed sets and perfect costumes. All in all and great story that has been transformed into a great film. The film also has to gain marks for it sublime soundtrack filled with cooler than cool songs to help set the scene. With few glaring problems the film will do you no harm if you watch it.
Since not every film can be a great masterpiece, it only stands to
reason that there are some which, as good as they are, will never be
mentioned in the same breath as The Godfather. Blow happens to be one
of those films. In today's market, where films are literally churned
out with more attention paid to marketability than merit, it is no
surprise that films of almost every subject are saturating the market.
Even films about, or based upon, historical crime figures are a dime a
dozen these days. The plus to this is that the ones that do come out
have to do something special in order to be considered good.
Blow's strengths lie in a couple of performances, and the scenes in which George Jung's ability to negotiate his way out of a fix (or into one) are displayed. Johnny Depp plays Jung with a consummate authenticity that, especially when sees the interviews with the real George Jung, literally leaps out of the screen. It's hard to believe this guy who I saw as a fresh-faced semi-nerd in A Nightmare On Elm Street is able to portray such a wide and varied range of characters. Ray Liotta gives him ample support as Fred Jung, showing a man hit hard by his own unsuccessful attempts to keep himself independent and free, therefore fully understanding of how far his son will go to see he doesn't fail in the same endeavour. The final scene with Liotta, where he is listening to the tape recording, is one of the most touching examples of men declaring they cannot regret their defiance seen on film.
The scenes with Pablo Escobar are especially amusing. As we see how George was able to charm his way into any deal he set his mind to, one cannot help but admire the man. Merely standing before the most powerful drug lord in South America at that time would have taken more guts than most people are allotted. The Jungian method of keeping oneself calm while smuggling through customs, even if completely fictional, sums up this this calmness in the face of danger quite brilliantly.
But, and it seems there always is a but with Hollywood product these days, some aspects of the film are terrible. Penélope Cruz is absolutely horrible as Mirtha Jung, and it is hard to believe that someone as cocky and bold as George would tolerate her presence. I've heard Salma Hayek (or horse-jaw as she is probably better-known) suggested for the part, but she is just as bad. Given how many actresses there are in Spain who would appreciate a break, and know a mode of speech other than screaming, one can't help but wish the director could have shown a bit of Jungian testicular fortitude and cast an unknown.
Adding to the film's woes is the end of the story. Compared to the first two thirds, where we seem to be going along at the speed of one of Jung's sports cars, the whole thread about Jung's inability to live without contact with his daughter brings affairs to a screeching halt. That Christina Jung has never visited her father, at least according to the ending crawl, is a pretty sad fact. What's even worse is that after viewing this film, we never learn anything about Christina. We don't learn if the cocaine abuse on her mother's part during pregnancy had any ill effects, or whether she has led a life she would call satisfactory. She is little more than a prop. The fact that Jaime King, the actress who played her during the final wrap-up, is a recovering heroin addict only makes one wonder more. Especially among those of us who really have to live with permanent physical damage that may have been caused by parental drug abuse during in utero development (even if it was only nicotine in my mother's case).
In all, I gave Blow an eight out of ten. If you want to know anything about George Jung and how cocaine got to be such a hot item in America, then this film does make some excellent points. With the poor economy in America where blue-collar workers are in borderline poverty while CEOs rip them off something blind, it really is a wonder we aren't seeing the rise of an army composed of George Jung wannabes.
That statement was said by Denis Leary who, not surprisingly,
co-produced this drug epic with Ted Demme who not only directs this
film, but Leary's special No Cure for Cancer. Watching that special, I
would've never expected a movie this good and serious, but it is. And
unless a better film comes along this year, Blow might just be the best
film of 2001.
In this bio-pic, George Jung is a guy who starts out by selling pot in the California area. After a while though, he progresses to selling cocaine in the late 70's and early 80's with the infamous Pablo Ecobar, and becomes a multi-millionaire (Jung, played by Jonny Depp very well, explains that if you bought cocaine in that time period in America, there would be a 85 percent chance it was from him). But then we see how things change with time, especially with Jung, which makes this movie even more fascinating and excellent.
While Blow is stylish, smart and hard edged with good stuff, the film also has compassion and feeling, in-particular in the third act which gives this movie a clever turn. Also with brilliant acting from the cast (the ensemble includes Depp, Paul Ruebens, Penelope Cruz and in a twist of a role from GoodFellas, Ray Liotta as Jung's dad) and a well told story, this is one of the best bio-pics and drug movies of the 00's.
`On your mark! Get set and blow!' And prepare yourself to one of the most provocative and entertaining films you will see all year. `Blow' stars Johnny Depp and is based upon the real life story of drug dealer George Jung. Depp's performance as Jung was outstanding and proves again why his outstanding diverse acting is all that is `cracked' up to be. Ray Liotta was just as good as the trusting father. However, Penelope Cruz as the materialistic drug dealer wife was not a woman on top with her acting. The most surprisingly energetic performance was by Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman) who was once again a master of his domain as the drug dealing homosexual middleman (in more ways than one). All in all, this is one `blow' that does the job right! **** Good
Based on a true story of how the American cocaine market was founded, this is a lot more funky than I had expected. A thumpingly good soundtrack right from the start and Johnny Depp cruising in to be a convincingly laid-back big-shot - almost like a graduate from Boogie Nights. Penelope Cruz manages to be blisteringly erotic in a few well-crafted scenes and without removing a stitch of clothing. Later, instead of following the usual pattern of despair in the second half where most drug movies home in on drug dependency, Blow refreshingly focuses on the emotional losses suffered by the characters. A film that just about manages to be more than the sum of its parts, it would have made a nice sort of pre-quel to Traffic, but it stands alone in fine form. And it's moving rather than depressing.
It feels wrong to be sympathetic toward a person who deals drugs for a
living, but after watching this movie (being based on a true story)I
have a completely different view of George Jung. The first time I
watched it, I watched it because I'm a fan of Johnny Depp. I always
felt he played his best role in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,"
however, now it's hard to decipher which was better, his role as Raoul
Duke, or George Jung?
The story of George Jung's life is a truly amazing one considering he starts out dealing marijuana, and his own mother has him sent to jail, and then he winds up trafficking cocaine with Pablo Escobar, and becoming as rich as Penelope Cruz is beautiful. He finally decides to straighten his life out for his daughter, and winds up back in jail for the rest of his life. The end of this movie is as sad as the story itself. I've never stayed as interested in a movie that was over 2 hours long as I did with this movie. It's a great, climactic story, and I would recommend it to basically ANY movie lover. I don't know a single person who hasn't seen it, and walked away disliking it. Johnny Depp deserves an Oscar. He's an incredible actor, and George Jung was an incredible man.
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