Blow (2001)
Directed by Ted Demme

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * *

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Blow chronicles the life of George Jung (Johnny Depp), who dominated the import of cocaine into the US in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Beginning with brief but telling moments from Jung's childhood, the movie goes on to depict his early days transporting marijuana, his heyday as a cocaine importer, and his eventual downfall. Each phase of the film emphasizes turning points in the character's life, and Demme underlines each of these moments with a complete lack of subtlety and finesse.

There is very little that can be said of Ted Demme's Blow that cannot be said of innumerable other movies. Although entertaining, it is an undistinguished, mediocre work.

Johnny Depp and Paul Rubens (who plays Jung's contact in California) do give wonderful performances, and their fellow cast members are competent, if unmemorable. Unfortunately, whatever virtues a few of the actors lend the film are more than offset by its numerous flaws. Visually, Blow is no more interesting than the average made for television movie. Narratively, it is formulaic, and, emotionally, it is manipulative and clumsy.

There is simply little to say about Blow. It resembles countless other biographies that have come before it. While George Jung is a sympathetic character, his being so must be credited entirely to Depp's talent as an actor rather than to Demme's ham-handed directing. To elicit sympathy for Jung in the film's final act, and to make the viewer aware of the sadness he suffers because of the choices he made in his life, the director draws exclusively upon various overused, hackneyed conventions that can be found in numerous other works. It is almost as though Demme, when making Blow, was being guided by instructions given in a handbook describing how a film is to be constructed. He has, as a consequence, created a trite, trivial movie.

I will remember Johnny Depp's portrayal of George Jung, with which the actor should be pleased, but nearly every other element of Blow is utterly forgettable.

Review by Keith Allen

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