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Directed by Ted Demme
Written by David McKenna and Nick Cassavetes.  Based on the book by Bruce Porter.
Starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  4/13/01

(I hate to beat a dead horse, but if you still haven't seen “Memento” yet, just go ahead and lose my phone number.  If you think you have “other things to do” or you have to “take the kids to baseball practice”, trust me, you don't.  Just go see the damn movie, and thank me later.)


Ahh, Johnny Depp.

To the ladies, just hearing the name “Depp” can set many hearts aflutter.  To the gents, he is—and always will be—the lead NARC from “21 Jump Street”, only the best show on television when it was on the air.  (Okay, that might be a little strong, but I loved the guy back in those days.)

And as hot as Depp is to some people, and as great as he was in that high school cop show...his movies, by and large, have been what my roommate Keith would probably call “dogshit.”  I hate to do this to you, but I am about to inflict pain on your senses by reminding you of some of Depp's movie choices (please, hide your children now):

  • “Don Juan DeMarco” (bleh)

  • “Dead Man” (really, its only problem was that it sucked—sorry Yac)

  • “Nick of Time” (even the always-great Christopher Walken sucked in this movie)

  • “The Astronaut's Wife” (if the title is this bad, do I even have to talk about the quality of the film?)

  • “The Ninth Gate” (and, Roman Polanski—he made “Chinatown” and the great “Death and the Maiden”—directed this!)

Now, yes, I will grant you that “Donnie Brasco” and “What's Eating Gilbert Grape?” are quality films, with both films receiving acting nods to other actors in those films.  But, Depp has made some truly horrible choices and I haven't the slightest clue why.

Sadly, despite a badass trailer for the film, “Blow” is on that list of not-so-great films.  At least with this movie, though, I can see the intrigue that Depp had in taking on this portrayal of George Jung, drug dealer extraordinaire in the late 70s and 80s.  “Blow” is based on a true story, and this guy Jung was a roller!  The film follows that all-too-familiar Hollywood path of the rise and fall of the famous criminal or underworld figure.  Jung starts out small-time on Manhattan Beach in California, getting laid almost as much as he gets stoned with hot beach blanket blondes.  Then, after going to prison, he meets future partner Diego (Jordi Molla) and together, they hook up with Colombian cartel meistro Pablo Escobar and make millions.  Jung even nabs another cartel figure's fiancée (Penelope Cruz) in the process!  But of course, this beautiful ride has got to end sometime, and Jung gets arrested so many times that I lost count after five.  But naturally, he loses it all in a series of repossessions by the FBI and foreign governments, and is left without his hot wife, his kid, his family, his eff'n everything.

The movie is pretty cool for about 45 minutes, and Jung rises to the top of the world drug trade while cool music and Franka Potente (playing Jung's first love Barbara; you may remember her from “Run Lola Run” and you should see that instead of “Blow”) are around.  That first portion of the movie is fast, exciting, cool and interesting, as we watch more coke get cut than even in the drug-addled “Traffic.”

But, every moment after that seems strangely familiar, and director Ted Demme treads exactly zero new ground as he walks us through Jung's life.  It doesn't help that Depp seems uninterested throughout the majority of the film; he gets angry exactly twice during the whole movie and that isn't in keeping with what is happening to his character as things start to go south.  And, this movie seemed to go on FOREVER; as I mentioned, Jung gets arrested every other scene and you are just hoping and praying that each one will be the last.  Please note that I checked my watch not once, but twice during this film.  Plus, while I didn't think it was possible, Demme makes Cruz looks like shit in all but one of her scenes; sure, she is playing a drug-addicted cokehead, but she looks like shit in a blonde wig!  (My favorite Cruz film—and I have seen a few since I have seen many of her Spanish films—is definitely “Jamon, Jamon” (Ham, Ham), a movie in which she is having sex with some guy and the guy is going to *town* on her chest and actually blurts out the words “Ooohh...your breasts...they taste like...jamon!”  It is a fall-out-of-your-chair riot!)

Sadly, nothing in “Blow” is that good, except for Paul Reubens (yep, Pee Wee Herman) as California middle man Derek and its 70s-era soundtrack.  But, if you love and absolutely need to see Johnny Depp in all of his films, you will enjoy that he gets so much of the screentime.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09