Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 4 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: A

"If you snorted cocaine in the late Seventies or early Eighties, there is an 85 percent chance that it was imported by us."

"Blow" is the story of George Jung, the man who, with the help of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin drug cartel of Colombia, introduced cocaine to the USA. It is a fascinating tale, all the more so because it has a basis in truth. It is riveting and sad and tragic at times, and yet pretty darn funny at others. So far this year, it is the movie that had me more intrigued than any other I have seen (though "Memento" still awaits me) and made me care more about any of its characters. I was particularly impressed with how much I cared what happened to the main character of the film: George.

George is born to parents who are perpetually poor (Ray Liotta and Rachel Griffiths) and vows that he will never end up that way. So as soon as he can, he and his best friend Tuna (any Kevin Smith fan will instantly recognize him as the man who is looking for a sailboat in a hidden eye picture at the mall) head to California. It is here that they immediately make the acquaintance of a young stewardess named Barbie (Franka Potente) and her friends. They also soon discover pot. This discovery leads the two of them to a great idea: since they don't want a real job, they could just sell pot. They buy the pot from a local supplier (Paul Reubens, one-time Pee Wee Herman) and sell it for themselves. Soon they discover that the pot business is poor Out East where they came from and decide to do something about it. They start exporting the stuff to Boston, using Barbie's connections as a flight attendant.

After a series of mishaps, George soon ends up in prison and sharing a cell with a fellow drug dealer who informs him that pot is dead. The real money is in white powder. Before long, George is on the streets, using his connections for a new drug and making more money than he knows what to do with. He also takes a new wife (Penelope Cruz) who will soon prove a lot more trouble than she is worth.

"Blow" is invigorating. I don't know how long the movie was, but it had some scope and length to it but was never, ever boring. The screenplay has a great, crackling pace to it that keeps the attention focused yet gives the characters a good amount of room to breathe. To this base, you can add great direction by Ted Demme (nephew of Jonathan), a crackling soundtrack and score, and some very memorable performances. Johnny Depp is great as a man walking a tightrope of illegal behavior and narcotics. He is a man who is often over his head and has a lot of luck on his side, but luck only goes so far when you are a fuckup like George. He wins our sympathy every step of the way and we feel genuinely sorry for the poor schmuck all of the time. Penelope Cruz is also quite good as a dominating and addicted shrew. Both of them shine in the scene in which Penelope is giving birth and swearing her head off in pain while George stands in the corner quietly overdosing. The amount of humor in this scene, especially considering the consequences, goes a long way to telling what is so good about this movie. Ray Liotta also gives one of his most commanding performances as George's father. This is one of many similarities between this film and "Goodfellas" (comparisons only favor the latter over the former) but I found it amusing nonetheless. It's like seeing Ray Liotta's character from "Goodfellas" turning the reins of the operation over to a new generation. Plus, George is about as far from organized as organized crime can possibly get.

The editing and direction are effortless and informative. We are there for the beginning of the coke trade and see where it takes those involved. We see the toll it takes on them as well. We see the mistakes that are made and the cost in the long run. Not in overdoses or anything like that, but more in the loss of one's soul and fragile connections and relationships that are disrupted along the way. These are the hurts that do not heal. These are the things that stick and rip us apart in the long run, and "Blow" essays them brilliantly. It is well-paced, well-acted, well-written and informative. It is powerful and sensation and edgy and, well, addictive. It may soft pedal the whole issue a bit by not showing the effect of George's drugs on the addicts themselves, but that isn't the point of the film. As it is, the film is strong enough.

If you have a yen for a great film: "Blow" will satisfy your fix.