His trip into greed and excess is all his own doing.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

What do you expect when you go to a movie called Blow? Of all the things it might be, a story of the Colombian drug trade might not be either your prediction or your choice. Think again. Director Ted Demme and Johnny Depp have made a good movie.

Mr. Depp heads a convincing cast that creates a panorama of wasted lives, but the first half of the story is a lighthearted romp through the pop culture of the late seventies and early eighties. Johnny Depp's George Jung is a young man with a golden touch and an intuitive eye for marketing. George is fueled by the determination not to be as poor as his parents. His father, a hardworking plumber (Ray Liotta), could never make the kind of money his shrew of a mother (Rachel Griffiths) wanted for her social ambitions.

George has fled Weymouth, Massachusetts, for Manhattan Beach, California, where he quickly becomes king of the beachfront drug culture, earning more money than he can stuff into his California beach house. He then fondly remembers the one hundred thousand rich kids in the five-college complex of the Amherst valley back home. He moves up to transcontinental cocaine. After he becomes the U.S. representative of Medellin drug czar Pablo Escobar, the story ratchets up a notch onto the predictable path of betrayal, arrest, prison, reprieve, and downfall.

Mr. Depp, without ever resorting to histrionics, creates both his role and an eccentric personality to go with it. The movie is lifted out of the ordinary largely by Johnny Depp's ability to play a role without ever letting the audience know what goes on in his heart. We'll never know this man, but we can't take our eyes off him.

The movie is marred by Hollywood's familiar inability to get the accents right. In an otherwise innovative performance as George's mother, Rachel Griffiths doesn't sound one bit like working-class Massachusetts; nor does Ray Liotta; nor does Johnny Depp. If this is a minor flaw in a good movie, it still jars the rhythm, and the rhythm here is terrific. Let's also be charitable to Penelope Cruz by saying that it is hard for anyone to hold the screen with Johnny Depp.

Where Traffic was earnest, Blow is breezy. The weight of wasted lives becomes secondary to a romp through the pop culture of the day. Imagine George in a red bell-bottomed suit with sunglasses. Think of mansions, music, and cars-whatever cash can buy that is deemed desirable by the kids who earn it by the fistful in their twenties. If, in the end, George's ambition exceeds his talent, it has at least been a colorful ride for the audience. The success of the movie stems largely from the fact that George Jung made all his own choices. His trip into greed and excess is all his own doing. We are spared the ordeal of watching tragedy because he is nobody's victim.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 495
Studio : New Line Cinema
Rating : R
Running time : 1h59m

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