by Ian Jobe These days the words cocaine and Hollywood seem to be synonymous. Everyone from Robert Downey Jr. to Kelsey Grammar has fallen prey to this nose candy. The devestating effects of a rich man's drug seems to be known, but does anyone know how cocaine made its way to Hollywood.
In Blow, Johnny Depp plays George Jung, the man who made more than 60 million dollars bringing cocaine to the households of movie stars and musicians alike. Director Ted Demme does an excellent job of taking us through Jung's life. We see Jung from the time he first learned how to skate to the day he goes to the hospital to see his daughter's birth, just before collapsing from a drug overdose. Being taken through both personal and illegal moments in Jung's life, we slowly watch a young boy become the biggest drug dealer in the world.
Starting off his crime wave in California, Jung sells pot along the beaches of Santa Monica with help from his friend, played by Paul Ruebens. This character's name is Derek Foreal and opens the first male hair salons in California then uses his business as a front throughout the movie. Ruebens, who hasn't been in much since Pee-Wee's Funhouse, is finally allowed to show that he's more than a goofy guy with an always funny "word of the day." His character always has a sunny disposition about him, providing the scenes that he's in with a little comic relief.
During Jung's little stint with pot, he is caught by the police and put in jail for two years. In jail, Jung meets Diego Delgado (played by Jordi Molla) who introduces Jung to the world of cocaine. "I went in with a bachelor's in marijuana and came out with a doctorate in coke," says Jung, describing the things Delgado teaches him in prison. When the two men get out, Molla introduces Jung to Pablo Escobar. "For those of you living under a rock for the last twenty years, Pablo Escobar ruled the Central American drug cartel," said Jung, who narrarates the movie.
Immediately, Jung becomes the main distributor of cocaine in the U.S. in the 70's. "If you got hooked on cocaine in the late 70's or early 80's, there is an 85% chance that I sold it to you," says Jung. Making millions in just weeks, Jung becomes an untouchable in the cocaine market. When he meets his beautiful new wife Mirtha (Penelope Cruz), Jung is on top of the world.
Mirtha brings out the wild side of George, and the two spend all of their time together snorting cocaine without a care in the world. Penelope Cruz, who gives her best English performance to date, plays a Colombian wife with a drug addiction, almost effortlessly. When we first meet Mirtha, she has such elegance and beauty, but she eventually ends up old and poor in the end. The director shows us how cocaine can destroy one person's life.
Jung's life does take a turn for the worse when his partner, Delgado, goes behind his back to make sure that he is kicked out of the business. On top of this, the Nicaraguan bank that Jung has been putting all of his money in is annexed by Panama and he looses the more than 30 million dollars that he had been saving there.
Johnny Depp does a good job of making us feel sad for a jobless and broke Jung. He turns a man who made his fortune by getting people addicted to drugs, into a victim. When Jung is living on top of the world in his Beverly Hills mansion with five sports cars, you can't help but loathe the fact that drug money put him there. But, when Jung is rotting away in prison hoping someone will visit him, you may find yourself wishing that he was back to his life of luxury.
Trying to regain some of his lost wealth, Jung makes one last try to get back into the drug business, he is set up by the FBI and thrown in jail for more than 20 years. This is where Jung is today, in prison waiting to be released in 2014. The credits of the film run over a picture of the real life George Jung looking pathetic and sad.
Despite some critical acclaim, Blow won't break any records at the box office, because of it's harsh subject matter. I suggest that you see this movie, though. When you walk out of the theater, the fact that it is a true story will stick in your head longer than anything else. Except for a few changed names for the sake of privacy, it all happened. The reality that one man could live a life with such ups and downs is incredible. Even if you have no real interest in cocaine, this is a great movie about one man's life.