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Blow

Director:Ted Demme
Writers:David McKenna and Nick Cassavetes
New Line Cinema; R; 119 minutes
Release:4/01
Cast:Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Jordi Molla

In the moral shorthand of recent America cinema, the worst tragedy of addiction occurs when a well-to-do white girl must sleep with a black man in order to receive her fix. Steven Soderbergh's much-lauded Traffic and Darron Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream both featured this. One of the best things that can be said about Blow is that it doesn't perpetuate the racialized stereotypes of purity, corruption, and drugs' overturning of the proper social order. On the contrary, the movie is practically moral-free. Blow prefers to evoke period mood and the underworld glamour of the criminal high life. And, swapping one offensive schema for another, it blames women on men's downfall.

Johnny Depp stars as uber-pusher George Jung. Some say Jung—a real figure—is responsible for popularizing cocaine in the U.S. Blow opens with Jung's modest beginnings in blue-collar Massachusetts. Leaving home for a better life, George ends up in California and becomes a small-time marijuana merchant with the help of a gay hairdresser friend (Paul Ruebens). George's parents (Ray Liotta and Rachel Griffiths) return to impact the plot; one thing leads to another and before long George lords over an emergent cocaine empire with his beautiful, strung-out Colombian bride (Penelope Cruz). Even drug movies as breezy as this one have only a single realistic end. Suffice to say that the real Mr. Jung is currently behind bars.

Blow is entertaining but slight. George Jung emerges with history but no real depth. Eminently watchable Johnny Depp is the perfect actor for this type of role, but every good film needs a heart, somewhere. Cash is the film's real concern. Drugs are just details giving this lightweight gangster flick hipster cache.


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