Projections - Movie Reviews

Blow Blow

For those who missed the expertly crafted and adapted drug opus Traffic, Ted Demme's Blow brazenly sketches the life of notorious drug smuggler George Jung whose dreams finally crashed in on him with one deal too many that has him in prison until 2015.  Even his only daughter hasn't attempted to contact him.  But this congestive rise-and-fall saga has Johnny Depp earning more sympathy than expected for a guy who didn't want to be an unstable provider like his heating and plumbing father.

After Life with Eddie Murphy, Demme knows his way around prisons and gives the viewer a good sniff of the consequences of Jung's recklessness starting with moving out to Southern California with rotund friend Tuna (Ethan Suplee).  Becoming a major grass supplier with the help of girlfriend stewardess Barbara, a red-headed Franka Potente of Run Lola Run.  Hedonism turns into a six figure enterprise.  Yet things are like a roller coaster for George who is hit with tragedy after making Barbara happy in Mexico and his incarceration for being caught with 660 lbs. of pot in Chicago.  Fellow inmate Diego (Jordi Molla) introduces him to the Columbian cartels handled by Pablo Escobar, a cool Cliff Curtis.

This is where Blow becomes more involving as Jung can smuggle 50 kilos of coke for Escobar.  George persuades Escobar to do business in the US, including Hollywood stars with allure to colleges who are ready to move beyond grass.  From his early days of smuggling with a gay LA hairstylist, Derek - confidently done with flamboyance and slyness by Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) and aided by Boston friend Kevin (Max Perlich) - George's addictions to the white powder substance have him doing 10 grams of blow in 10 minutes which nearly kills him.  His trafficking which drew in over $100 million through the 80's made him America's Escobar with his earnings held in Panama.

The introduction of Penelope Cruz's Mirtha snatched from a Columbian by Jung and soon his bride has the Spanish actress as a high-bred coke-addled princess displaying more depth in about the same screen time as she had in All the Pretty Horses.

Blow, as a biopic, compares to Boogie Nights, Scarface, and Casino in terms of a sweeping tale with a protagonist who hits rock bottom almost as a tragic anti-hero.  But it doesn't have the narrative drive and cohesion of those epic tales.  Some may not understand the callousness on the part of George's mother, Ermine, endowed with escalating shame by a shrill Boston accented Rachel Griffiths (Blow Dry).  So it's Ray Liotta's understanding fatherly Fred who only sees George with his fancy cars and luxuriant lifestyle momentarily happy as his son often turns up on his doorstep but he is unable to express his love until a final, taped message.

Though Demme films his uneven, yet resonant opus marking growth behind the camera with a variety of film stocks to capture George's euphoria and ambition and the good and bad times as a child, the compressed nature of an important, turbulent story taints what Depp and a gifted ensemble can breath into Blow.  However, Cruz and maybe Reubens would appear to enjoy a higher position in Hollywood by being in this muted, poignant story of a lonely coke-addled causality.


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