5 Sep

Director: Ted Demme (2001)

Biopics of people whose lives already resemble the dramatic plot of so many films can be hard game to produce without coming across as a glamorisation – or even celebration – of what would usually be resigned for shocking front page headlines. And when the miscreant in question is then played by one Johnny Depp, the risk of turning a serious and essentially disturbing life history into a feature film becomes further muddied by the Hollywood effect. Adapted from a Bruce Porter’s sufficiently surmising book, “Blow: How a Small Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellín Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All”, Blow is a stylish and, dare I say, enjoyable, biopic of real life American drug smuggler, George Jung. Following the shenanigans of Jung and the merry band of malevolents the Medellin Cartel, Pablo Cartel and Carlos Lehder, leading to some major incarceration for Jung, where he remains today, the inspirations behind Blow are certainly not ones to be celebrated. But boy, do they make for an entertaining film.

In the opening scenes, Young  Jung is taught that money is irrelevant to happiness in life by his wise old dad, Fred (Ray Liotta); of course, this lesson is imbued with hindsighted irony with the knowledge that clearly this life lesson is as easily flushed away as a seized stash considering Jung’s later employment pursuits. Moving to California with his friend, Tuna, George soon learns that his dad’s lesson is intrinsically flawed as they begin to reap the benefits of selling marijuana. With demand increasing, and a handy mule available in the shape of air-hostess girlfriend, Barbara Buckley, George decides to skip the middle man and start smuggling the drugs in direct from the growers in Mexico. Inevitably he gets caught, skipping bail and hiding out back in New England with his weary parents, so much so that his own mother, Ermine (Rachel Griffiths) calls the police who dutifully come collect him and take him back to jail.

Everyone knows the best place to stem drug dealing is to put drug dealers in prison with other dealers – while in prison, George rooms with Diego Delgado, played by the eerily authentic Jordi Molla whose contacts with the Medellin Cartel prove mighty useful once George is released. This is when it all starts (starts?!) going array. The blow smuggling business, it would seem, is a pretty hard club to get out of and so after George’s epiphany following a drug induced heart attack and the birth of his daughter, the film somehow shifts making the audience almost sympathise with Jung as he tries to kick the habit. Everything is going well until baby-mama and wife Mirtha (Penelope Cruz) throws him a powder keg of a birthday party…not a great day for the FBI to come a-knocking. Back to jail he goes. Meanwhile, Mirtha divorces him and takes custody of their daughter – now that is a custody case I would have liked to see considering she is as much of a powder head as her smuggler husband…

As one would expect from a drug tale, things don’t end well for George. But strangely, and most likely due to some biased source material, I found myself actually hoping things would work out for Jung. No one likes to be screwed over by their friends, particularly when your drug dealing friends turn informant on you, just at the time you proclaim this is your last ever deal before becoming a family man. It is surprisingly heartbreaking.

Johnny Depp is unsurprisingly fantastic, transporting us through the various guises and personalities of George Jung from an excitable, fresh faced pot dealer to a world weary, deluded old man, trapped in a prison of his own making (and that of federal law), away from the one good thing he ever made in his life – his daughter.

However, the final shot of the real life George Jung is quite possibly the best poster child for ‘Just Say No’ ever seen, thankfully bringing us back to earth before we get seduced by the Depp magic and believe that drug smuggling might not be so bad…


One Response to “Blow”

  1. Luke Brincat September 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    This is will BLOW your Mind! it’s truly amazing 🙂

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