"Blow" is yet another film about the drug trade, this one based on the true story of convicted drug trafficker George Jung (Johnny Depp), currently serving a 60-year sentence in a federal prison. It's a sad though sometimes funny story that parallels Jung's life with the rise of the coke trade in the mid-'70s through the go-go '80s when the white power ruled and the war on drugs first began to create casualties. The film actually begins with George as a boy watching his hard-working father (Ray Liotta) toil at laborers' jobs, never quite catching a break as his shrewish wife (Rachel Griffiths) berates him incessantly. Wanting a different life for himself, young George heads to California in the late '60s where he eases into the beach life and starts selling Mary-Jane through a local hairdresser (played with wicked sass by the former Pee-Wee Herman, Paul Reubens). As the marijuana trade becomes the coke trade, George finds himself the key player in an operation that runs from Pablo Escobar's ranch in Colombia to the California coast. The money, houses, cars, parties and beautiful women flow as easily as the coke; then it all comes to a life-crushing halt. The lies, deceptions, betrayals and rampant drug use spin out of control and one day George finds himself a 40-plus-year-old ex-king pin, estranged from his daughter and looking for one last score to set things right.
The performances here are exceptional, Depp's characterization of Jung runs the course of 25 years and is flawless. Penelope Cruz ("All The Pretty Horses") is very good as Jung's fiery coke-fiend wife, while Ray Liotta and Rachel Griffiths are solid in supporting roles. The film itself, however, is for the most part derivative, using the paradigm of "Goodfellas" to tell the familiar story of one man's foray into the drug trade gone awry. Though the film is a step up for director Ted Demme, who began his career with movies like "Who's The Man," "Blow" is for the most part a very well-produced HBO movie.
Starring Johnny Depp, Ray Liotta, Rachel Griffiths, Paul Reubens, Miguel Perez, Penelope Cruz, Franka Potente, Ethan Suplee, Noah Emmerich and Cliff Curtis. Directed by Ted Demme. Written by David McKenna and Nick Cassavetes. Produced by Michael DeLuca, Ted Demme and Denis Leary. A New Line release. Rated R for pervasive drug content, language and some violence and sexuality. Running time: --- min