Blow

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(2001)

TCM: Saturday 20 June, 9pm

Johnny Depp as real-life dope smuggler George Jung, an associate of Colombian drugs baron Pablo Escobar and the man who introduced cocaine to America in the early 1970s. The rest, as they say, is misery. Well, yes and no. Ted Demme’s lamentable movie wants to have its coke and eat it: Depp’s voice-over tells us that he’s leading a perfect life – and if orgiastic gatherings with glamorous party-animals wasted on barrel-loads of booze and blow are your thing, then the prettily coloured pictures tend to prove this – yet at no time is Jung willing to pay the price, either for his ambition or his excess. As a chronicle of a criminal life, Blow is a snow job. Not just in the canny casting of the charismatic Depp as the unrepentant Jung, but also in the way his story is told. From the opening titles of cocaine harvesting accompanied by the adrenaline rush of the Rolling Stones’ Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, to the early sunny scenes setting out good old George’s slacker lifestyle, Blow clearly intends to be a kind of music-driven DrugFellas (it’s surely no accident that GoodFellas star Ray Liotta is cast as Depp’s dad). But Demme lacks Martin Scorsese’s moral perspective. If you want the real deal on the criminal drugs trade, see Scorsese’s savage Casino, or Mario Van Peebles’ angry Panther and New Jack City, or Steven Soderbergh’s urgent Traffic. Demme’s gutless picture doesn’t even mention the side effects of drug trafficking, never mind show them. It could almost be a case of caffeine, cocaine, what’s the difference? Jung is in the import-export business; the fact that he’s dealing in drugs simply means he’s a fugitive and has to take a bullet and beating or two. He’s basically a decent guy who loves his dad and wants to see his estranged daughter (the sad music and soulful use of slow-motion testifies to this). Those nasty feds bust him at his 38th birthday party, the poopers, and then the Panamanian government appropriate his ill-gotten gains. Gee, what a shame. On the run, he’s busted again in a DEA sting. It’s so unfair. And his misfortune, it seems, can all be blamed on his bitch wife Penélope Cruz. His mom treated him badly, too. Hmm, a pattern is emerging. Do you suppose George Jung approved this script? You betcha! And he was probably tickled pink by the casting. Depp wears a padded shirt and a bent nose, but it’s to no avail. Kristina Jung has a cameo in the picture, although she wants nothing to do with her father in real life. I guess she wanted to meet Johnny Depp.

Certificate: 18
Duration: 119min

Other Showings Time & Date
TCM Sunday, 21 June at 1:20AM