Blow (2001)

BLOW doesn't.  Not entirely.  Johnny Depp stars in this kinda-epic, 
more-cheery-than-chilling, and, alas, consistently under-compelling 
bio pic about the life and crimes of George Jung, a big-time Eight-
ies drug smuggler who started small in the late Sixties.  As casu-
ally played by Depp, hair just past his shoulders, Jung is intrro-
duced as an enterprising Eastern transplant to lovely Southern Cali-
fornia.  With a little help from his friends, plus a lovely steward-
ess girlfriend you'll remember from somewhere (hint: see RUN, LOLA, 
RUN), George of the Jung-le tries his hand at dealer and, later, im-
porting pot.  (Even later, he'll move up the controlling substance 
food chain to cocaine.)  Depp also narrates, with a big-city-by-way-
of-head-cold accent, and identifying himself as the film's beginning 
as Prisoner So-And-So.  Ergo, so some jail time is involved.  We're 
also shown a flashback at the film's start, starring Ray Liotta as 
the then pre-teen's bankrupt father.  (That last detail presumably 
showing the sowing for Depp's character later making gobs and gobs 
of money.)

What results is an episodic and largely upbeat story-- think of it 
as the anti-TRAFFIC-- that both spans several decades (or at least 
three of them) and crosses a couple borders.  First Mexico, then 
scenic South America.  e.g., Colombia.  Some of the segments are al-
most suspenseful and others are played for minor laughs.  Such as 
when Depp's Dylan-quoting character fails to amuse a trial judge.   
Or Jung and Company's attempts to score South of the Border.   Ulti-
mately, there ain't enough of either-- not enough dangerous excite-
ment nor bonafide black comedy.  (The *good* guffaws are few and far 
between.  Like a grand glimpse inside a money-stuffed house, where  
boxes of cash are stacked ceiling-high in each room.  Or the unfor-
gettable sight of a twitchy, ashen-faced Depp standing in a delivery 
room, dressed in surgical garb, and resembling a zombie doctor.)  
The last half-hour, however, is played as straight drama.  So be 
prepared.  Eh, overall it doesn't sucks, but it didn't exactly keep 
Yours Truly from falling asleep, either.  What else is new, right?

Thank God the cast is interesting.  Like a puffy-eyed Paul Reubens 
as a wacky weeding hairdresser, Penilope Cruz as the second-hour 
love-interest, and a severe-looking Rachel Griffiths as Depp's char-
acter's mother.  (Yup, that last one's a little tough to swallow, 
'pecially if you know everyone's ages:  Depp, 37; Liotta, 45; Grif-
fiths...  32!)  And credit costumer Mark Bridges for those wonder-
fully horrible threads in the first hour.  Wish they were even 
*more* garish, though, as the film's *second* assault on style is 
longer in coming, those frightening, Eighties-style, heavy-metal 
hair do's appearing late in hour two.  Johnny Depp as Iron Maiden 
singer Bruce Dickinson?  Or at the end-- and made even more hilari-
ously so with old-age make-up!-- as an aging rock star under a tan-
gle tussle of teased locks...  Sparse soundtrack, too.  Not too many 
oldies on this one, though I did enjoy the inclusion of Lynyrd Sky-
nyrd's stoner anthem "That Smell."  Hell, yeah.  Ted Demme directs 
from a screenplay by David McKenna and Nick Cassavetes, from the 
book by Bruce Porter.  (Rated "R"/120 min.)  

Grade: C+

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: Low Grade

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros