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#66 - Blow
Ted Demme, 2001

Based on the true story of George Jung, who becomes one of the biggest cocaine dealers in history during the 1970s.

It does seem like a bit of a cop-out from a critical standpoint to base one's negative assessment of a work on how derivative it is of older and better pieces, but Blow really is that kind of film. I don't even have to specify exactly which true-crime biopic I'm thinking of, do I? Well, you can ask me later if you're not sure, anyway. In the meantime, Blow is sporadically interesting but it's considerably flawed. At its best, it's way too familiar and at its worst it's kind of a mess. Johnny Depp may recycle a lot of his usual acting quirks in playing the drugged-up Jung, whose motivations at least manage to avoid being reprehensible; he becomes a drug lord out of the desire to be a wealthy provider as well as a responsible family man like his impoverished father (Ray Liotta) and there is some small tragedy in just how many friends and family members he loses over the course of the film as his drug empire fluctuates. Unfortunately, the fact that the bulk of the characters fade in and out of the film without much in the way of development is a strike against the film, no matter how true to the story it might have been. It doesn't help that out of the few characters that stick around for the whole film, most of them aren't well-developed anyway. Penelope Cruz initially seems like she would have been a good foil to Depp's craziness but here she becomes too cartoonishly unsympathetic to be a remotely good character. Liotta is decent enough as Jung's disapproving yet understanding father, but having Rachel Griffiths play his extremely disappointed and double-crossing mother doesn't work, especially since Griffiths is clearly around the same age as Depp (I did the research and apparently she's even younger than he is). Even having notorious kingpin Pablo Escobar (Cliff Curtis) pop up briefly does little to make an impression.

Aside from that, it's business as usual. Jung builds himself up from nothing with lofty goals and can-do attitude, then goes through the highs and lows of being extremely involved in an international drug trade, before losing everything, then gaining some of it back, then losing it all again. A slight variation that seems promising, but ultimately fails to deliver. The slickness of the filmmaking does little to make this film pass by any quicker and the fact that Jung is humanised much more than the average crime-story protagonist doesn't make much of a positive difference to an extremely generic film - if anything, it might actually hinder the film.