Movie Review: Does "Blow" Blow? The Banality of Dealing 4/13/01

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


Steve Beitler for DRCNet

Rushing through the door to the Hollywood mainstream that "Traffic" opened, "Blow" is mainly of interest to reformers not for what it shows but because it exists. The tone of the movie is hackneyed and conservative, but "Blow" does have some good acting and engaging visuals. At bottom, it's another small sign that the failure of the drug war is becoming a peculiar form of the conventional wisdom.

"Blow" tells the story of George Jung (pronounced Young), a Massachusetts guy who is hell-bent on not being poor. Jung begins his quest by dealing pot after he moves to southern California in 1968 and falls in with stewardesses who are happy to lug the weed in their unchecked suitcases.

There's a lot in a dealer's life that George likes. He has a good feel for business and is soon steering a large operation. Nabbed with more than 600 pounds of pot, George heads to prison, where his cellmate is a colleague of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian cocaine titan. This stroke of networking fortune kicks George's career into the big leagues. He is soon a major coke distributor with the money, trophy wife and habit to prove it.

George's rise and fall as a coke dealer follow a predictable arc. He has to buy a house just to store all his cash, which he keeps in hundreds of eye-catching floor-to-ceiling piles and random stacks. The wife gets crazy on the merchandise. George is flipped to the cops by a group of up-and-comers that includes an old buddy, a competitive strike that lands George in the tank, where he will be living until 2015.

While the story lurches ahead, the movie occasionally weighs in with insights on family and money and children that are muddled and tired. This is where "Blow" serves up scenes that are, along with the cliches, the movie's biggest drawback. The best parts are when "Blow" revisits the time when coke seemed like too good an answer to too many questions for too many people.

Rachel Griffiths as George's grasping mother is excellent, but Ray Liotta as his play-by-the-rules-but-come-up-short Dad is bland. Johnny Depp as George smirks a lot, says "Everything was perfect" when it wasn't close, and has the clothes and hair down very well.

Bruce Porter wrote the book that led to "Blow," which doesn't add much to the cinematic history of the drug war. That's okay. "Blow" is a ripe bit of low-hanging fruit in Hollywood's endless search for strong stories. They didn't do much with what they had, but this is a movie that would not have been made 10 years ago, so its arrival may be a modest mark of progress on reform.

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #181, 4/13/01 Editorial: Connecting the Dots, Filling in the Background | DEA Settles Case to Keep Supersnitch Cover-Up Alive, DRCNet Files Freedom of Information Act Request for Suppressed DEA Report | Cancer Professionals Release New Pain Treatment Guidelines as NIDA Warns of Prescription Drug Addiction Danger, Patients Caught in Crossfire | Canada: Government Eases Medical Marijuana Rules | Bush's First Drug Budget: More of the Same | Higher Education Act Campaign Continues to Pick Up New Schools, Student Movement Grows | DRCNet Reaches 20,000 Subscriber Mark, Advice Sought on Possible Week Online Name Change | Movie Review: Does Blow Blow? The Banality of Dealing | Involuntary Commitment Bill Targeting Drunks and Junkies Clears Washington Legislature, Awaits Governor's Signature, "Gravely Disabled" Could Be Committed | Utah: Prison Crunch Has Sentencing Commission Considering Alternative Sentences for Drug Offenders | Australia: Kings Cross Injecting Room Passes Legal Hurdle, Opening Soon, Cannabis Cafes to Follow? | Norway: Proposed New Regulations Will Restrict Access to Methadone and Other Opiate Maintenance Programs | Media Scan: Rolling Stone,, Boston Phoenix, | The Reformer's Calendar
Mail this article to a friend
Send us feedback on this article
This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Subscribe now!
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en Espa�ol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em Portugu�s Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]