Blow (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/05/2001

Two stars out of five
Running time: 123 mins

Disappointing film that desperately tries to be Goodfellas and fails horribly in the attempt.

Blow is yet another case of ‘great trailer, shame about the film’, since the trailer makes it look as if the entire movie is going to be as hectic and dazzling as the cocaine-run sequence in Scorsese’s masterful Goodfellas. Sadly, that’s not the case, and though the film wisely sticks to exploring the cocaine business, as opposed to sinking into laboured ‘drugs are bad’ moralising, we’re ultimately left with a film that fails to really engage the audience on any level.

Depp plays real-life cocaine entrepreneur George Jung (currently in prison and not due for release until 2014). Witnessing his father (Ray Liotta) struggle with poverty at an early age, George vows never to live like that, and never to worry about money as much as his mother (Rachel Griffiths). In the 1960s, George moves to California with his best friend Tuna (Ethan Suplee, Remember the Titans) and the two of them swiftly find themselves drawn into the laid-back, marijuana beach culture.

It isn’t long before they hook up with air hostess Barbara (Franke Potente, Run, Lola, Run) and Paul Reuben’s camp hairdresser-cum-dealer. Soon they’re smuggling marijuana to college campuses all over the country, thanks to Barbara’s airport connections and George’s entrepreneurial skills. However, George eventually gets busted and while serving time, he meets Diego Delgado (Spanish actor Jordi Molla), a Columbian drug-smuggler who tells him that cocaine is where the real money is and claims to have connections to Pablo Escobar!

One of the main problems of the film is that, in trying to cover as much of George’s life as possible, it skips forward too quickly, too often. For example, in one scene we learn that Barbara has cancer – then, seemingly two scenes later, we’ve jumped forward several years, Barbara is dead and we’re on to the next part of the story.

This is doubly frustrating, firstly because it wastes Potente by giving her too little to do (the film does the same later, with Penelope Cruz), and secondly because Barbara was, apparently the love of George’s life and he never recovered from losing her, so to be cheated of scenes that illustrate that lessens the impact of her death.

The acting is generally good – Depp gives a reportedly note-perfect impression of Jung and remains watchable throughout, despite the succession of fright-wigs he has to wear. The supporting cast are excellent too, particularly Reubens and Supplee, and it’s always nice to see Demme regular Max ‘Weasel Face’ Perlich in a film. Unfortunately, the female cast are wasted – Cruz’s scenes amount to a brief love scene and a lot of shouting and not much else, despite the sexier material hinted at by the poster and publicity photos.

As for Ray Liotta, although he’s good in the part, he’s clearly been cast because of his close association with Goodfellas, and that over-shadows his performance. In fact, it’s one of several ways in which the film tries to emulate Goodfellas (same admittedly excellent soundtrack, same rapid-editing, same use of voiceover and freeze-frame) and comes up wanting – the film definitely suffers by comparison.

Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the film is the ending. Having established that George is desperate for his estranged daughter to visit him, the film plays a badly-misjudged trick on the audience that allows for both truth and fantasy. This is particularly frustrating when you check the cast-list and realise that his daughter actually had a minor role in the film as a clerk, meaning that she hates her father too much to visit him or contact him, but she’s apparently perfectly happy to appear in a film about his life.

In general, then, you can probably afford to give Blow a miss, at least at the cinema. It is, however, guaranteed an after-life on video and DVD, thanks to a couple of rapid-fire montage sequences, one of which apparently features both Cruz and Depp in full-on bondage-gear (dog-collars, leashes, the works)…

Not an unwatchable film, exactly, but a very disappointing one.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 19:49

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