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The West Wing
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Starring: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Franka Potente, Ray Liotta, Paul Reubens, Rachel Griffiths, Jordi Mollà, Cliff Curtis
George Jung, the son of a struggling business owner, sees his family in money problems and vows to never be in that situation. When he moves away, he begins his own ‘pot-pushing’ business which lands him success and imprisonment. In prison, he meets a cellmate who brings him into a partnership in the new cocaine market. When out of prison, George quickly becomes the key person in establishing the explosive US cocaine market. As he becomes ever more successful and powerful, George’s connections and treacherous business catch up to him in ways he never would have imagined.
There’s a stark difference between this drugs dealing film as opposed to others. The characters aren’t low-life addicts, but rather young, successful, astute yet utterly reckless high standing people who simply want to make a living and achieve the American Dream. Blow is based on the true story of George Jung, the average boy next door, and sees him through to the end of his days, after becoming the world’s premiere cocaine importer supplying the USA with over 85% of imported cocaine in the 1970's and 80's.
Ray Liotta plays George’s passive yet concerned father, with his mother being portrayed by Rachel Griffiths. Paul Reubens is George’s back-stabbing friend and dealer. Jordi Molla is Diego, George’s former cell mate and merciless partner, while Penelope Cruz plays his power-hungry missus, Mirtha Jung. Johnny Depp shines above all, as usual, with his portrayal of the infamous lead himself, George Jung.
Growing up with a weak father and an overtly domineering mother, George promises to be better than his parents and provide for his children, never to be poor, and so heads to California to find a better life. His better life is found in the form of marijuana dealing, under the influence of Derek Foreal, the camp dealer portrayed by Paul Reubens.
Good fortune follows George as he dives into the world of drugs and dealing. His ambition and success drives him to the top and soon earns himself a reputation through national dealing alongside his girlfriend, Barbara (Franka Potente). Young and reckless, they party and live the dream they’d forever strived to achieve. But when Barbara passes away from cancer, George loses faith and begins to drift away and is soon imprisoned.
It was in prison that his life got changed in its entirety. As a Padawan to a Jedi Master, George becomes master of the dealing world alongside Diego Delgado, his cell mate. When free, George heads down to South America meeting Escobar (Cliff Curtis), the main man able to help with expansion of his cocaine kingdom to America.
After a revelation of being betrayed coupled alongside the birth of his daughter from wife, Mirtha, George severs his relationship with the cartel and vows to live a drug-free, chaste life for the sake of his family. For a few years, all goes well until his missus throws a birthday party and is reunited with his former drug associates. After a detailed discussion with Derek, the police raid the party and George is once again convicted and is suddenly on the run as a fugitive.
After a simple birthday party, life begins to spiral out of control. His Panamanian bank account is seized, and during a heavy argument with Mirtha, is arrested due to the betrayal of his own wife for stashing drugs and being found out as a fugitive. During his three years in prison, Mirtha divorces him and takes his daughter with her. He applies to visit his dying father, only to be rejected by his stone-hearted mother and so simply sends a tape recorder recounting his memories with his father and admitting that he finally understood what his father meant when explaining that money was not ‘real’.
When eventually released from prison, he struggles to keep up a steady relationship with his daughter and soon enough lands himself in prison for a further 60 years. The film closes with George as an old man, seeing his daughter finally come to visit. As the guard calls for George, the image of his daughter fades away with George desperately looking around to find her once again.
It can seem rather swift and easy to fall into the role of an addict, whether for drugs or money makes no difference. But Depp had to go much deeper than that, portraying the beginning of a low life, rising above the expected and then falling so deep into a spiral down, never to rise from it again. Depp’s acting is consistent and gripping throughout, regardless of the ridiculously provided wigs and a padded suit to add years to a youthful Depp. Whilst the acting was superb, the wardrobe provided a much needed sense of humour to the film, but didn’t, thankfully, reduce the effect the film was supposed to give.
Partnered alongside a steady cast, each actor plays their character to a tee and are each effective to provide their individual promise to the story, with Jung’s mother being the most hated character throughout the entirety of the film.
Whilst lengthy, it proves to be an apt telling of a true story and, whilst not as acknowledged, gripping and successful as Requiem for A Dream, Blow manages to scrape itself into a decent deal. An apt seven out of ten.