ninth symphony films - movie reviews

BLOW (2001)

DIRECTOR  -  ted demme

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  biography

LENGTH  -  124 minutes

RELEASED  -  6 april 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  new line cinema


ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $50,000,000
blow - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from blow at

buy the dvd from blow at

based upon the book, "blow: how a small-town boy made $100 million with the medellin cocaine cartel and lost it all" by bruce porter, blow is the story of george jung who is currently serving a 15 year sentence.

the actors snorted milk powder in the cocaine scenes.


picture from blow

picture from blow

picture from blow


one out of four possible stars

This is the story of a drug dealer who goes bad, cleans up, goes back to the job, and gets thrown in jail. Add a few points for casting Johnny Depp in your lead role, but take away a bunch for trying to turn a serious criminal into a likeable guy. For the first twenty minutes or so, this is a pretty entertaining film. It walks a fine line between the humorous and the dramatic. It explains the Boston upbringing of George Jung, the main character of the movie. It also had some scenes about his growing into a teenager and young man in his twenties when he moved out to California. While there, george got into dealing pot around the local area.

George became so successful at this that he eventually got arrested for having about six hundred pounds of pot in his possession. Which in and of itself doesn't make that much of an impact on me. It's really more humorous than serious. But a few years later when he gets into the cocaine business, the humorous bit continues. As the movie went on, it is harder to feel sympathetic to George's situation. And when he started having legal problems with his wacko second wife, it's harder to care whether his character would ever see his little girl again.

He was a drug runner in league with some really nasty Columbians. And the filmmakers obviously tried their hardest to make the audience feel sorry for this guy through humor and melodrama. But come on, he was dealing in cocaine! How can this guy be sympathetic? Maybe i'm sounding like a teetotaler (yes, I know that word refers to alcohol, just let me make a point here), but I don't know how anybody can really feel sorry for this guy. But morality aside, perhaps i'll spend a few lines on the story. And like I said (or wrote, rather) the first half-half hour is kind of entertaining. Potheads in Los Angeles. What could be more funny?

Any successes probably have to do most with the very wise casting choice of Johnny Depp. His performance was realistic and he the thirty or so years he had to age was very convincing. By the end of the film, he looked as though he had lived through that cocaine induced lifestyle and went crazy after getting thrown in jail for a few decades. But even with a top-notch performance from Depp, I can't say that this movie brought me anything new, story wise. The basic "man achieves riches and then loses it all" plot is pretty common. The title for the book this film was based on even sounds the same: "How a Small-Town Boy Made $100 Million With the Medellin Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All."

It isn't that the film is overly long either. It's only about two hours. Perfectly acceptable for a movie that covers several decades and is in the drama genre. But the movie didn't offer anything unique or new to add to the familiar plot. It was full of cliches and familiar situations that made the movie nothing more than ordinary. But that doesn't mean the filmmakers didn't make at least a few good decisions in making this film. In looking at the other performances in the film, i would like to comment the excellent casting choice for the character of Derek Foreal. Paul Reubens, well known for his Pee Wee exploits, creates an amusing character as Johnny Depp's partner in crime.

His performance was more than worthy as a gay hairdresser who dabbles in pot dealing and later cocaine. Also, Ethan Suplee gives a very humorous performance as Depp's best friend named "tuna." He plays the stupid best friend role very well. These two characters bring a good ensemble element to the film. Of course, all of the performances in the film weren't top notch. Back again for a repeat performance of "I can't act" is Penelope Cruz, playing Depp's wife "Mirtha." She doesn't show up until the second half of the film, but she really doesn't make that much of an impact as Depp's cocaine wracked wife. During her few lucid moments (when she's not shouting obscenities), she isn't really able to express herself convincingly. It's as if she's just reading her words off a page without knowing what the meaning is behind them.

On an unrelated note, the cinematography was pretty creative for this film. There were a lot of odd angles and interesting composition in the shots that created something that was one of the only unique aspects of the picture. Perhaps it was because of the good attention to detail concerning the costumes and look of the film. Because it goes from around the late fifties or so until the mid-eighties, there was a lot of costume and art direction changes that were eye catching. But again, even with the good cinematography, the story of the film, what could be considered the meat of the film, was lacking.

So what you end up with in this film is a big batch of normal with a little bit of interesting throw in. Some good performances, some not so worthy. And a story that is sometimes interesting, but sometimes not. All in all, a pretty average movie. But in truth, there isn't a lot about this movie that's worth the eight bucks you'd have to shell out at the ticket counter. And most of these problems really stem from the lack of an engaging story. Sure, the topic's something that is intriguing, but the screenplay wasn't given enough "oomph" to create something extraordinary. It's just a "story of the life of . . ." movie and this kind of film airs quite frequently as a movie of the week on television. In all fairness, the performances were good, for the most part, but nobody in the film is able to change this movie into anything more than mediocre. Save your money and read the book.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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