Some people have that fortune or misfortune, depending on how you look at it, of living extremely interesting lives. One of those people is George Jung, a cocaine smuggler who was one of the major players back in the seventies and eighties. Blow is a movie based on the book “Blow: How a Small Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellín Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All”, written by Bruce Porter. As you can see, Mr. Jung has quite an intriguing story to tell. And I can tell you right away that the movie Blow does it justice.
Starring Johnny and Penelope, this is one of those big, commercial movies with an interesting and somewhat controversial story. I remember watching it back in the day and thinking: damn, we need more movies about this shit. Since then, numerous series and documentaries, regarding drug smuggling, have been released. You can even say that the sub-genre is somewhat saturated, especially considering what the Breaking Bad series is doing.
Moving on, Blow is a different kind of drug movie. It’s more down-to-Earth and realistic, focusing on the familiar characters in extraordinary situations. Situations and temptations that would probably get the better of us. This is why we try to avoid them. So, do not expect some kind of Tony Montana from Scarface kind of deal here. This is a personal and emotional story amplified by narration and excellent performances. Not to mention alluring visuals taking you to a different era and a different environment. A place where cocaine rules the world.
George Jung decides to move to Los Angeles, along with his best friend Tuna, in search of a better life. Soon, George befriends a stewardess and they begin hatching plans on how to use her occupation and her special privileges in airports to smuggle marijuana into the USA. After the first success, George will realize that a life of crime is something that’s his life calling and begins moving up the ladder…
Oddly enough, just one year after this movie was released, director Ted Demme died during a basketball game, with the toxicology report showing that he was positive for cocaine. Rest in peace, Ted. I already mentioned two of the main stars, but there are a lot of great supporting roles here. Just take Ethan Suplee who was great as George’s best friend Tuna. Franka Potente, Paul Reubens, Cliff Curtis and especially Ray Liotta all contributed equally. I also think that Depp felt very comfortable in this role, giving one of his best performances yet.
Although this may seem like a standard issue American Dream – Crime Edition story, it’s far from it. This is basically a story of what would happen if ordinary people started dealing drugs. They become too self-involved, burdened by constant improvisation. Moreover, they don’t think about the future too much. George had it all and lost it all. Mostly because all the money and all the drugs in the world cannot help you to run away from yourself. So, this is not a story about some super capable and smart guy who gets away with it.
Although he did work with one of the most powerful cartels on the planet, Medellín Cartel led by none other than the infamous Pablo Escobar. If you’re looking for a movie like Blow, I recommend you check out American Made. Starring Tom Cruise, it’s also based on a crazy true story of an American cocaine smuggler who worked with cartels. And if you’re a Depp fan, Donnie Brasco might be a good choice although that’s more of a mafia than a drug movie.
Finally, just one more thing about that script and Johnny’s “fuck” that he keeps saying every time something goes wrong, it’s fucking epic. I remember picking it up and using it in my quite mundane daily troubles, making them feel just a little bit cooler.
Director: Ted Demme
Writers: Bruce Porter, David McKenna, Nick Cassavetes
Cast: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Franka Potente, Ray Liotta, Ethan Suplee, Cliff Curtis
Fun Facts: Milk powder stood in for cocaine in this movie.