Directed by Ted Demme, Blow dramatizes the life of George Jung, a young man from Massachusetts who would make and lose 100 million dollars before the age of 30. He rose from dealing pot in California to partnering with Pablo Escobar and becoming one of America’s most notorious cocaine smugglers.
The 2001 film received middling reviews. Some critics felt that Blow took many of its beats from other notorious drug trade films. Much like Martin Scorsese’s frenetic gangster drama Goodfellas, the film uses a deadpan voiceover and flashbacks to 1950s suburbia. Ray Liotta even plays Jung’s father Frank who files for bankruptcy when George is 10 years old. The portrayal of Jung’s growing popularity in California as a marijuana dealer has a splashy, colorful energy that evokes Scarface.
Most critics praised Johnny Depp’s measured performance. Depp gives the movie its soul. With his piercing eyes and chiseled cheekbones, Depp brings sensitivity and dimension to the role, making Jung’s transformation from wide-eyed aspiration to lonely, desperate failure believable and devastating. Depp’s version of Jung is an ambitious salesman who wants to rise above his circumstances.
Depp’s emotionally intelligent performance makes Blow quite sympathetic towards Jung, even if he destroyed the lives of many with drugs. There’s a tenderness to his relationship with his daughter that is more important to him than greed. He severs his relationship with the cartel after she is born and he has a drug-related heart attack. His father taught him that money ultimately means nothing and family is everything.
Jung remains a civilian for five years until a disastrous 38th birthday party raided by the FBI and DEA forces him to become a fugitive. Jung’s wife, played by a shrill and hysterical Salma Hayek, gives him up to the police. All of his efforts to remain on the straight and narrow collapse in a single night and his life is torn apart—his wife, daughter, and home taken away.
Depp had a lot of empathy for Jung and felt an obligation to tell his story as truthfully as possible. They spent two long days together discussing as much as they could about Jung’s life.
Now streaming on Fandor: Boston George: Famous Without The Fortune is a five-part docuseries that carefully exams the real story behind The Man, The Myth, The Legend, George Jung.