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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Blow plays on America’s love affair with crime

Americans have long had a fascination with and even a closeted admiration for that antihero of the American dream – the criminal. From their love affair with John Dillinger to their fascination with the portrayal of mafioso characters in The Godfather, Goodfellas and currently “The Sopranos,” Americans yearn for a glimpse of the underworld.

Although Blow‘s protagonist is simply a drug dealer, rather than a true gangster, the film has the familiar feel of a behind-the-scenes look at a criminal subculture as its mafia-infatuated predecessors. Set in the 1970s, the film depicts the street-level trade of cocaine in America.

Blow (New Line Cinema) is based on the true story of George Jung, played brilliantly by Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow), who in a short time becomes the biggest importer of Colombian cocaine into the U.S. and ignites the firestorm of popularity cocaine enjoyed in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Jung comes from a humble background in Weymouth, Mass. His father, played by Ray Liotta (Hannibal), is a working class man always on the verge of poverty. His mother, played by Rachel Griffiths (Hilary and Jackie), abandons her family because she is ashamed of her social status then returns on a whim.

After witnessing the damage poverty causes the household, Jung tells his dad, “I never want to be poor,” and vows that he will never live like his parents. He graduates from high school and moves with a friend, Tuna, played by Ethan Suplee (Dogma), to Manhattan Beach, Calif. Jung is shocked to find that free love and recreational marijuana use rule the day there, a very different climate than he felt “back East.”

Jung soon realizes that there is money to be made in the pot business. His girlfriend, played by Franka Potente (Run, Lola, Run), quickly introduces him to a stereotypically “Hollywood” hairdresser hilariously played by Paul Reubens, or Pee-Wee Herman. With this association Jung becomes the weed king of Manhattan Beach.

When an old friend visits and informs Jung that such high-quality pot sells for a fortune at home, Jung’s entrepreneurial desires kick in. He begins to import the drug to the Massachusetts college area by plane and van. Eventually Jung finds the guts to travel to Mexico and buy drugs in bulk. All of this is done in the innocent, even na?ve manner that characterizes Jung throughout the film. To him, the dealing business is just an easy way to make money while still having a good time.

After spending time in jail in 1970 for smuggling drugs from his home in Acapulco to Chicago, Jung is hardly reformed. Instead, he meets his future Colombian business partner, Diego Delgado (Jordi Molla), who informs him that he “has the wrong dream” and should be thinking about the enormous potential of the cocaine business instead of marijuana.

When Jung is released from jail despite being under house arrest, he immediately becomes notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s American connection. From there, it is only a matter of time before the millions start pouring in, and the lavish excesses that characterize the time period begin to take their toll on Jung’s life. Audiences familiar with Goodfellas will recognize the warning signs, including an abundance of money and a beautiful new wife, played by the dynamic Penelope Cruz (Woman on Top), who swings convincingly from sweet beauty to cocaine-fueled madwoman.

The constant threat of death, which goes hand-in-hand with the cocaine industry, and rampant drug use portrayed in the movie flesh out the standard plot. Eventually, Jung’s life spirals out of control until the inevitable downfall of his drug empire. The film first reveals that Jung is serving a prison sentence until 2014.

Despite the familiarity of the territory, Blow is an explosively exciting film that never lets go of the viewer’s attention. Director Ted Demme (Life) creates the prototypical “regular-guy” criminal in Jung, and the viewer’s heart sinks every time he gets arrested, despite the fact that he spreads drug addiction all over the country.

Despite his wild living, Jung still maintains a moral center by talking to his dad, a man who realized so many years ago that “money isn’t everything.” Jung represents American trends during his salad days. His innocent ventures in the hippie era lead to his unbridled materialism in the “decade of excess,” and his life becomes an unsatisfied blur. Upon the birth of his daughter, he finally wakes up. But it is too little, too late.

The cast is uniformly excellent, and the soundtrack, like that of Goodfellas, transports the viewer back in time just as much as the bellbottoms and plaid jackets. Blow proves that, when done well, the criminal film is still very much entertaining.

Blow is in theaters Friday

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