director: ted demme
johnny depp, penelope cruz, ray liotta, rachel griffiths

. Ted Demmeís Blow might have seemed a better film if it were released in a year that didnít include Traffic. Like Traffic, itís ďon-messageĒ with the current wisdom -- the War on Drugs isnít working -- and tries to convey a broad, epic picture of the drug trade. It fails, if only because itís built around a hero that, for all of Demmeís plodding effort, is profoundly unlikeable.

George Jung was a pioneer in the cocaine trade, the man who, almost single-handedly, made it the drug of choice in the Seventies and Eighties. Blow is a true story, more or less, that portrays Jung as the most benevolent drug dealer that ever lived, a man more sinned against than sinning. Depp plays Jung with a Charles Bronson monotone, and the script gives him only one tragic flaw -- a fear of poverty that compels him to go from selling pot to coke as the times go from free love to desperate hedonism. Depp is lucky -- itís a character more complex than the one given to Penelope Cruz, who plays his shrieking, coke-addled banshee of a wife.

Jung hooks up with Pablo Escobarís Medellin cartel, and the film implies that Jung was just a fall guy, a decent man made a scapegoat for the truly awful violence, corruption and destruction that the commercial drug trade brought in its wake. To a, by-now obligatory soundtrack of Seventies ďclassic rockĒ, we see Jung make money on an unimaginable scale, then lose it all to bigger criminals like Escobarís henchmen and dictators like Panamaís Noriega. We see the regret on his friendsí faces as they set him up for the DEA. We are meant to feel a tug at the heartstrings as he rots in prison, cut off from everyone he loved. Itís all, ultimately, an unconvincing load of sentimental rubbish.