Blow (film)

Blow is a 2001 drama/biopic film about the American cocaine smuggler George Jung, directed by Ted Demme. David McKenna and Nick Cassavetes adapted Bruce Porter's 1993 book Blow: How a Small Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellin Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All for the screenplay. It is based on the real life stories of George Jung, Pablo Escobar, Carlos Lehder, and the Medellín Cartel. The film's title comes from a slang term for cocaine.


The film opens to a young George and his parents Fred (Ray Liotta) and Ermine (Rachel Griffiths). The boy's father supports his family in Weymouth, Massachusetts by running a small plumbing company. His mother is constantly complaining that the family has no money and badgers her husband, asking him what they are going to do. Finally, despite Fred's relentless efforts to keep the family afloat, they eventually have to file for bankruptcy and lose everything. The boy decides then that he will not let the same fate befall him.

A grown-up George (Johnny Depp) moves to Southern California with his friend "Tuna" (Ethan Suplee) and they get a beachside apartment and make friends with all the locals. They don't want to get real jobs so Tuna comes up with the idea of selling marijuana. George's new girlfriend, Barbara Buckley (Franka Potente) sets them on the path to do just that by introducing them to her friend/entrepreneur Derek Foreal (Paul Reubens), who is the main dealer in the area. With Derek's help, George and Tuna make a lot of money selling to all the people in the area. Their other friend, Kevin Dulli (Max Perlich) who is a college student back in Boston visits them while on vacation. He begins to tell George and Tuna about the shortage of quality pot and the enormous demand given all the colleges in that area. With the help of Barbara, an airline stewardess, they start bringing the drugs to Boston.

The demand continues to grow beyond what Barbara can carry in her suitcases twice a week to Boston. They decide to start buying the drugs directly from Mexico. They meet a few Mexican druglords and set up a system for importing the drugs via small airplanes. Things are going well, and they buy a mansion in Acapulco. The entire group relishes in the luxurious lifestyle.

George brings his now fiancee, Barbara, to meet his parents. While Fred and Ermine are bickering with each other over the manner in which George acquired the wealth to buy Barbara such a beautiful ring, Barbara gets a nosebleed and has to leave. George then proceeds on to Chicago to do business, but is caught trying to import 660 pounds of marijuana. He makes an amusing statement to the judge in an attempt to convince her that he didn't commit any real crime, but she is not amused and he is sentenced to two years. Barbara tells him she can't wait that long since she is dying of cancer. George skips bail to care for her but she eventually dies. After her death, the group breaks apart.

While hiding from the authorities George visits his parents back in Massachusetts. Both reveal that they know exactly what is going on with George's life and are less than pleased. He is having a heart to heart with his father when suddenly the police show up and arrest him. His mother has turned him in, stating that he needs to straighten his life out, which disgusts his father.

George is now sentenced to 3 years in a Federal prison. His cellmate is Diego Delgado (Jordi Molla) who is involved in the cocaine trade in Colombia. He convinces George to change from pot to cocaine and when he gets out of prison, he violates parole and heads down to Colombia to meet up with Diego. They meet with Cesar Rosa, who represents Pablo Escobar, and negotiate the terms for smuggling 15 kilograms for "good faith". George isn't satisfied with the way negotiations are going because he feels that they are having to work too hard for too little money. George then goes to a hotel to pick up 50 kilos of cocaine from Escobar's men on Diego's behalf. George is accosted and told to tell Diego that he must pay them by that Friday. However, Diego quickly gets arrested and jailed in Colombia, leaving George to find a way to sell the drugs and get the money in time. He reconnects with Derek in California, and the two successfully sell all of it in 36 hours, amassing a $1 million + profit. George is then whisked off to Colombia, where he finally meets Pablo Escobar (Cliff Curtis).

Soon, Pablo agrees to go into business with George and Diego. With the help of main middleman Derek, the pair becomes Pablo's #1 importer. George narrates that at one point, 85% of the cocaine going into the US came through him. He then sets up an account with a bank in Panama where he hides all his wealth.



Blow was a minor box office success. With a budget of roughly $53 million, it managed to rake in just under $53 million domestically, but raised just over $30 million internationally for a grand worldwide total of $83,282,296. It gained a greater fan base when released on DVD in late 2001.

Reviews for Blow were decidedly mixed. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film has received a rating of 55%, which is rotten. Many critics were quick to compare Blow to previous films such as Scarface, Goodfellas, and Boogie Nights, which contained similar plot lines and took place in approximately the same time period (i.e. late '70s, early '80s). Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film a glowing review, praising the directing of Ted Demme, the bold performance by Johnny Depp, and the screenplay that tells a story without placing any sort of moral judgment on Jung.

Roger Ebert noted the film for its good acting and direction as well, but questioned the value about making Jung the subject of this film: "That's the thing about George [Jung]. He thinks it's all about him. His life, his story, his success, his fortune, his lost fortune, his good luck, his bad luck. Actually, all he did was operate a toll gate between suppliers and addicts. You wonder, but you never find out, if the reality of those destroyed lives ever occurred to him.


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