7 out of 10


“There were movie stars and rock stars.

I became a pot star.”

Most films about drugs and destructive behavior follow the same path – innocent person becomes involved in the fast life, begins getting more seriously involved, destroys their relationships with those close to them, have torrid rollercoaster style marriages and then their story is generally summed up by a long spell in jail after being caught.

Similar to “Casino” or “Scarface,” “Blow” follows this set path, but with unique insight and a burning desire to reveal a true story, it is also more. A biographical picture about George Jung, the first American to open the cocaine trade between Columbia and the US with the help of Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar and small time auto thief Carlos Lehrer, director Ted Demme (“The Ref,” “Beautiful Girls”) covers his life from a middle class childhood in Massachusetts to his present day incarceration in Otisville Federal Penitentary in New Jersey. Demme, nephew of the director of “Philadelphia” and “Silence of the Lambs,” has come into his own with this film. Starring Johnny Depp in what is probably also one of his most demanding roles on screen, Jung’s story has been retold with incredible care and honesty - creating a tragic portrait and a watchable and intriguing picture.

Born in Weymouth, Massachusetts,“ George Jung (Johnny Depp) grows up in an environment of both love and abandonment. With his mother leaving when his father’s income was too low, Jung made a promise to himself at a young age that he would never be poor. Leaving his hometown during his college years and moving to California, he falls into smuggling marijuana over the border from Mexico to resell at colleges in the Northern US with the help of high school friends (played by Ethan Suplee and Max Erlich), girlfriend Barbara (Franka Potente) and local hairdresser Derek Foreal (Paul Ruebens). Becoming wealthy in just a few years beyond his wildest dreams, his life takes a turn for the worse as he is arrested in Chicago for drug possession and is sentenced to just over two years in Danbury Prison. There he meets Carlos Lehrer (Diego Delgado in the film, played by Jordi Molla) and upon their release begin to import cocaine through Pablo Escobar. Responsible for a shocking 85% of the cocaine imports throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Demme follows Jung’s rises and falls, the birth of his daughter Christina and eventual betrayal and imprisonment.

Based on personal interviews and the book of the same by Bruce Porter, the screenplay was adapted by writers David McKenna (“Get Carter,” “American History X”) and actor Nick Cassavetes (“Face Off,” “Life”). Fast paced and similar to pictures like “Goodfellas,” George’s life is a rollercoaster ride that is historically interesting due to the scale and impact of his actions and thanks to Demme’s direction you can’t help but get caught up in his story. From his early scenes in California to his arrest in Chicago the film is at it’s strongest. The following spiral into darkness with Jung’s involvement with Escobar and Medellin Cartel contains some weaker performances but it is still a captivating watch. With the addition of supurb costume design by Mark Bridge, historically accurate sets and a soundtrack that includes The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Booker T. Washington and Cream, “Blow”offers a very authentic recreation of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Not only does it have a strong story but also great performances are also seen throughout. Depp’s Jung a strong and sympathetic character and with a supporting cast that includes Penelope Cruz (“Vanilla Sky,” “Captain Correlli’s Mandolin”) as his shrill and out-of-control wife Mirtha, Ray Liotta (“Goodfellas”) as his father Fred and the added efforts of Reubens, Suplee and Potente, “Blow” is never a disappointment.

Tragically Demme passed away after the picture’s release from a possible cocaine induced heart attack in 2002 in almost a testament to the destructive legacy that Jung unleashed upon the US. Nominated for several awards, it is a worthy film to see.

More Fizz Than Coke

Film Critic: Jennifer M Lillies