They say that marijuana is a gateway drug, and if Blow is to be believed, this statement is true. At least, it is for our lead character George Jung (Johnny Depp), who, after being caught with 660 pounds of marijuana, goes to jail. Here, he “went in with a Bachelor of marijuana, came out with a Doctorate of cocaine”. His weed distribution turned into trafficking cocaine.
In his case, pot did turn into something worse, something more dangerous. See, in the world of smuggling blow, things get serious. Dealing pot is all well and good, but there isn’t any risk to it. With cocaine, the prices skyrocket, meaning that there is danger in it for the characters. Or at least, there should be. There doesn’t appear to be much tension or drama for the drug dealers pictured within the film, and this ends up being part of the problem with Blow.
Now, going into the film, I had never heard of a man named George Jung. He is a real person though. Apparently he was a big deal, responsible for about 85% of the cocaine smuggled into the United States in the 1970’s and early 80’s. That’s an impressive feat, legal or not, and it’s possible that you could make a good movie about such a figure. Unfortunately, the story of George Jung doesn’t appear to be one worth telling.
I mentioned a lack of tension and drama one George begins selling cocaine, and for the most part, this is true. There are times when things heat up, but these parts in the film are too few, too infrequent, and too brief to save the rest of the film. The parts without drama end up being boring, having nothing fueling them. I mean, yes, I suppose it’s realistic, but it’s also not very interesting. For a film, this is a problem.
As a matter of fact, a large portion of the film is one of two types scenes. The first type has people partying, often times using drugs, with seemingly no consequences or repercussions to their actions, while the second has George Jung smuggling or acquiring drugs. These scenes happen in various locations, many of which are nice to look at, but when you get right down to it, there isn’t much variety in what is actually happening on-screen.
If the characters within Blow were interesting, then seeing them do similar things over and over again might have been fine. Unfortunately, they weren’t. George is more or less one-note, and maybe this is just me, but I find it really hard to care about people who, despite making tons of money, continue to destroy their own lives with drugs. There’s one part–and this may be mildly spoiling here, but I don’t care–where George gets clean. Completely clean. “Sober as a judge”, as they say. Want to guess how long this lasts? Maybe a minute out of the total runtime, that’s how long.
Going into this film, you can basically expect it to be the rise and probable fall of a drug dealer. That’s just how these things are. And I’m not even sure if it’s a spoiler to mention any part of the plot, given the fact that this is a true story, but if you go in expecting something like that, and that’s the kind of movie you want, Blow will deliver.
For me though, I need a compelling story in order to stay interested. Blow doesn’t have one. Any twist in the plot, all of them were easily figured out. There was not a single moment that I didn’t see coming, and not a single scene that didn’t remind me of another film. The entire production felt derivative to me, even though I’m not well-versed with these types of films.
The film isn’t all bad though. It was shot nicely, and felt like it had high production values. Director Ted Demme clearly knew what he was doing with the production, and it’s unfortunate that he passed away not long after it was released. (He had a heart attack, and was found to have cocaine in his system, if you are curious).
The acting was also fine, especially by Johnny Depp. He carries as much of the film as he can, playing his character about as well as I could imagine he could. I’m curious as to how his drug usage had absolutely no impact on him or his personality though, I guess he got lucky. I think that it would have added another dimension to the film though, having him fall emotionally and mentally, instead of just in his checkbook.
Blow tells a story that I don’t see much reason to tell. That is its biggest problem. George Jung is not a character that has enough drama in his life to make a compelling film. It’s as simple as that for me. It’s a well-made film, carried by a good actor, but there was nothing within it to make want to keep watching it. George didn’t have many problems, and the ones he did have were self-made. This doesn’t make him relatable or endearing as a character, instead making him someone who I wanted to get rid of.