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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday January 12, 2019 

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In the late 1960s George Jung (Johnny Depp) leaves his parents Fred and Ermine (Ray Liotta and Rachel Griffiths) in suburban Boston and begins selling marijuana on the beaches of southern California. It is not long before he is introduced to bigger players - and prison. In prison he meets a man who knows a man who . . . and by the mid 70s George is a multi millionaire cocaine dealer. This fact based story concertinas Jung’s drug dealing career and introduces his girlfriend Barbara (Franka Potente) and wife Mirtha (Penelope Cruz), as well as his accomplices like Derek (Paul Reubens) and Diego (Jordi Molla), and his most powerful contact, Colombian drug lord Escobar (Cliff Curtis). Jung almost singlehandedly creates the market for the most popular recreational drug in North America in the 70s and 80s.

I walked out of Blow needing a cigarette and I don't even smoke. Finally, the best film of the year (well so far, for me). Blow is a true story faithfully told, which is admirable considering the subject matter; drugs are often glamourised in films like Trainspotting and Human Traffic. Yet perplexingly, American critics have been cold towards Blow, claiming that Jung is an unglamorous central figure - a drip, a loser, an unimpressive criminal. To me, that makes this average man's plight more compelling. In a recent PBS interview, Jung said, "Was it the fact that I had the courage to be bad, or did millions of Americans not have the courage to be good?'' and in the film: "I went in (to prison) with a bachelor's of marijuana and came out with a doctorate in cocaine.'' The fact remains; Jung was a sad and lonely victim who deserved what he got. Perhaps a victim of drugs isn't as stinging as, for example, the unrepentant Henry Hill in Scorsese's Goodfellas, who boasts "As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster." Yet Hill was an unimportant criminal but an interesting character, while Jung was an important criminal but a boring character. That makes them two crims from the same vein. Perhaps Johnny Depp's casting is why American critics have reacted coldly towards the film. Not because Depp's bad - on the contrary, his portrayal is dead on - but because the actor is too damn charismatic (as he proved playing the drivelling dopester Hunter S Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) to play the terminally moronic Jung. Perhaps the likes of John Cusack, who can play a savvy loser when he wants to (eg: The Grifters, High Fidelity), would have turned in an Oscar-worthy performance. Either way, Jung was an average schmo, and if it wasn't him introducing booger sugar into America, it would have been someone else. Doesn't that prove that the drug trade would have rolled on without him, as it did? And still does?
Shannon J Harvey

Blow has a lousy title, great anti-type casting with marvellous performances, fabulous story origins without judgmental elements - and a set of problems that involve all its strengths. Should you be concerned about the way that cocaine became the drug of choice for America’s huddling masses (and not so huddling), this will inform you. Should you care about the man who (almost) accidentally triggered that phenomenon, this is for you. If you’re a Depp fan, this is also for you, equally if you’re also a Rachel Griffiths fan. It’s her best work, ever. Asked to stretch and age, she does both, with such conviction it’s a master class in acting. Ray Liotta struggles to keep up with her as her cardigan loving hubby. Cliff Curtis – the New Zealander – is fabulous as Escobar, as are all the supports. But there is a vague sense of distancing created by the film’s structural insistence on telling the story – unsullied by editorial bias on drugs - while also trying to create a character profile. The profile alone would have worked better, with less of the exposition. Still, it ain’t bad.
Andrew L. Urban

Blow is a compelling portrait of the real-life and crimes of the man who almost single handedly created the cocaine market in America during the 70s. The real George Jung is currently languishing behind bars; here he's played by Johnny Depp - an actor whose presence always demands attention. Styistically similar to Goodfellas and Boogie Nights, Jung's voice-over confessional drives the story of his "career" from Boston 'burbs to fun, fun, fun in the California sun selling dope to students and finally the big time working with notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. This is an engrossing tale of the meteoric highs and spectacular lows of a "businessman" who, in his father's words, "could have been great at anything" but chose this terrible path instead. Depp is outstanding as usual and there are fine contributions from Penelope Cruz as Jung's fiery wife, Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman in a past life) as his California middle man and Ray Liotta and Australian Rachel Griffiths as his parents. Five years younger than Depp, Griffiths may have established some sort of record for negative age gap between actors playing mother and son. While not in the same league as the abovementioned classics (the depiction of Jung's unhappy home life is cliched and repetitive) Blow is a solidly crafted and absorbing study of the unauthorised American entrepreneurial dream.
Richard Kuipers

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CAST: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Rachel Griffiths, Ray Liotta


PRODUCER: Ted Demme, Joel Stillerman, Denis Leary

SCRIPT: David McKenna, Nick Cassavetes (screenplay), Bruce Porter (novel)


EDITOR: Kevin Tent

MUSIC: Graeme Revell


RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes



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