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A charismatic movie star performance from Johnny Depp in the starring role makes 2001's Blow, a fact-based crime drama worth sitting through despite a screenplay that seems to borrow too much from other far superior movies.

Depp plays George Jung, a small time pot dealer in California who, after his second arrest for selling marijuana, finds out that the real money is in selling cocaine and through a connection he meets in jail, finds himself dealing with the Medillin Cartel and its leader, Pablo Escobar, to help Jung become one of the biggest drug dealers of the 1960's and 1970's.

Even though David McKenna's screenplay is based on a book by Bruce Porter, the events chronicled in this movie play too much like scenes I've seen in earlier and better movies, Scarface, in particular. There are several scenes that seemed to have been lifted and only slightly altered from the 1983 Brian DePalma classic. We get the scene where his partner gets ditched while Escobar puts his trust in him, the scene where Escobar gives George a test to see if he can be trusted, we eve get George stealing his boss' wife (Oscar winner Penelope Cruz). And we definitely could have done without George's corny, cliche-ridden narration.

Despite all this, the film does an effective job of showing how dangerous dealing with Columbia drug dealers is but in a more discreet way than expected. There's a great scene where George is trying to get a pilot hired by the Carte, they tell the guy he can't be hired until they get the names of his kids and the schools they attend. The physical effects of cocaine are beautifully documented in the scene where George is in the delivery room while his wife is having his child.

What the film sums up better than anything is what a moron this guy George really was. If you watch the opening scenes where he and his friend, Tuna (Ethan Supplee) decide to sell pot, it's obvious this guy doesn't have a clue what he's doing and he only got as far as he did on dumb luck. Every time he would jump bail, he would run to his parents' house...it didn't occur to him that this would be the first place they would look for him?

Despite all this, Johnny Depp is dazzling in the starring role and makes this movie worth watching. Rachel Griffiths is terrific as his obnoxious mother and Paul Ruebens also impresses as George's drug dealing partner in California. Of course, the standout in the supporting cast is Ray Liotta as George's kind but not-as-dumb-as-he-looks dad. A little more originality in the writing and this one could have been something really special.