Blow (2001)

While the crimes they commit can be controversial (and their methods doubly so), Tales about outlaws have always been popular, as these people risk life, limb, and freedom to make substantial profits, bringing in black-market goods that otherwise law-abiding patrons can enjoy. The realities are often darker, and less romantic, yet even more compelling. In 2001, the account of the smuggler George Jung, who was the lynchpin of the infamous drug-based, Medellín Cartel was depicted in Blow.

Spoilers: It doesn’t end well.

In the 70s, a young George Jung from Massachusetts meets some local shakers in the L.A. Scene, it is through them, He makes his way smuggling Marijuana and becoming very skilled at smuggling Marijuana. When he is eventually apprehended, he meets a fellow inmate, Diego, who has contacts in Columbia, this prompts George to resume his trafficking, but as the drugs get harder, so does George’s existence trying to meet the demands of the ever-expanding and ever-powerful Medellín Cartel and the impact on his family.

George Jung might not be the first or most obvious choice to make a film about, but he has a unique perspective from a very unique time.

When looking at photos of the real-life George Jung, it is clear to see why Depp was cast, it is also a godsend that Depp manages to inhabit the role well. Because, as a character, Jung does not seem like the most obvious choice to be the centre of such a film, yet he’s a stranger who managed to curry favour into the height of the Medellín Cartel, as such we’re given an outsider’s perspective. Speaking of, Cliff Curtis is distinctive as the infamous Pablo Escobar, but he is not the end of stars this project attracted. During his time supplying narcotics, George meets and marries Mirtha played who is captured well by Penélope Cruz. Even the likes of Paul Rubens shows up as a drug-dealing hairstylist based on real-life Richard Barile, along with Ray Liotta who is no stranger to dramatic depictions of real-life criminals, ironically takes the role of the more level-headed Fred Jung who instils that money isn’t everything.

…A lesson he learnt the hard way himself eleven years earlier.

Fully taking advantage of the period of counterculture to blast out some appropriate hits, the soundtrack is a suburb sampler of rock ‘n roll hits of the time, a relative who’s who of then-contemporary album-orientated anthems, with the likes of Cream, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. Needless to say, it is perfectly in sync with Blow’s exciting attitude, and hard-hitting realities. As the film chronicle’s both the highs and the lows of George’s escapades and the impact it had on George’s loved ones.

Cruz is also on fire as Mirtha.

With the field of dramatic tales of 20th-century crime figures being a competitive one, Blow manages to bring a novel spirit, that sets it apart from the graver takes. Jung’s perspective is a fascinating look at how he circumvented law enforcement and met the bigger elements of the war on drugs. Stylish enough to be worthy of the period it is set in, there are certainly worse ways to get a counterculture based look on why crime does not pay.

Reubens is a great fit adding the camaraderie and levity that is found in the early parts of these types of films.

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