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Blow (2001)

Based on a True Story.

Directed by:

Ted Demme

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 124 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States

Normally, when a Hollywood movie boasts about being “based on a true story”, you can generally assume that in reality it’s no more true than your granddad can piss donuts. ‘Blow’ is perhaps one of the few exceptions though, because – though undoubtedly spruced-up in the name of audience-friendliness – this biopic of drug smuggler extraordinaire George Jung was made with close enough involvement from its subject to suggest that there is some modicum of reality hidden in here.

Jung, of course, was unlucky enough in his life to eventually get caught – on more than one occasion. But he may take some smidgen of consolation from the fact that he’s now been lucky enough to have the ever-impressive Johnny Depp cast in his role. After a brief prologue showing George as a kid (Jesse James) who looks less than impressed with the financial struggles of his father (Ray Liotta), Depp takes the character through decades of slowly climbing the drug barons’ answer to a career ladder. It’s a life that takes him to and from Colombia on countless occasions, has him regularly threatened with extreme violence, sees him start a family with a whining money-snatcher (Penelope Cruz) and then – as you’d probably hope – eventually get his just desserts.

For those who don’t know about such things, Jung is largely seen as responsible for setting up America’s cocaine trade single-handedly. Apparently, that’s reason enough to deem him worthy of a two-hour-plus biopic, complete with all-star cast and full trimmings, but in all honesty there’s nothing here you won’t have seen before. Despite a typically faultless performance from lead man Depp, the whole thing is like a sort of watered-down cross between Goodfellas and Scarface, minus bite, character and interest. Add to that a conclusion which dramatically swan-dives into deep, deep schmaltz, and you’re left with a final product which – though just about good enough to hold the attention for its duration – isn’t the sort of movie you’ll have much memory of once the end credits have ceased rolling.

It's Got: Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens as Jung’s camp hair-crimping partner in crime.

It Needs: Top marks to go to the costume department for finding such top notch shell-suits for the film’s late-80s/early-90s period.

DVD Extras A string of interview sessions between the real George Jung and director Ted Demme, a 25-minute documentary on Colombia’s ongoing drug war, a 5-minute featurette about addicts (cheery stuff!), audio commentary from Messrs Demme and Jung, Demme’s production diary, ten deleted scenes with commentary, character out-takes, Nikka Costa’s ‘Push and Pull’ music video, a couple of trailers, and cast & crew resumes. Version reviewed: Blow DVD Extras Rating: 8/10

Alternatives:

Goodfellas, Scarface, Traffic

Summary

It’s only thanks to Johnny Depp being Johnny Depp that ‘Blow’ doesn’t suck.

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