Connect with us
BLOW 2011 film review
Image via New Line Cinema

Film

Blow at 20: An Entertaining but Iffy Goodfellas Knockoff

The film 2001 Blow, starring Johnny Depp as drug dealer and smuggler George Jung, is one of many films released over the years that lifted most of its major elements, from aesthetics to themes to structures, from Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Casino

There are the period setting and costumes, the near-constant pop music needle drops, the scenes of spiraling cocaine addiction, and the slow-burn third-act collapse. The film even casts the lead from Goodfellas, Ray Liotta, as Depp’s father, while Penelope Cruz gives a histrionic performance seemingly heavily inspired by Sharon Stone’s in Casino

And there’s also the same general conclusion as Goodfellas and most of the movies it inspired: Sure, there was fun, riches, and glamour, but it’s bound to end so badly that it wasn’t even worth it. 

Blow 2011
Image via New Line Cinema

Blow, released in April of 2021- 20 years ago this week- is no Goodfellas or anywhere close to it. It’s an entertaining film with a high re-watchability factor, featuring a go-for-broke performance from Depp in the part of his career when he clearly still cared a lot. The film doesn’t do much that you haven’t seen before. But it did have a fantastic teaser trailer.

George Jung was raised in Massachusetts by a sad-sack dad (Liotta) and cartoonishly mean mom (Rachel Griffiths), before escaping to Southern California at a young age. There, he enjoyed success as a marijuana distributor, with help from a cast of friends dominated by stewardesses, and a supplier (an outstanding Paul Reubens, showing a glimpse of the brilliant character actor career he never had but should have.) 

Eventually, as of the mid-’70s, Jung outgrows California and ends up shifting to international trafficking in cocaine and becoming the American partner of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel. But like most of the many movies about going into business with Pablo Escobar, things don’t go so well for the American, with Jung going to prison multiple times and suffering estrangement from just about everyone close to him. George Jung did get out of prison, in 2014, and is still alive, at 78 years old.  

Blow 2011
Image via New Line Cinema

No one could say that Blow presents much that’s original. And even worse than that, Blow won’t win any awards for representation of its female characters. 

Rachel Griffiths plays Jung’s mom as a screeching harpy, showing up every 20 minutes or so to yell at her son. And when she’s not being emotionally abusive, she’s turning her own son in to the authorities. Penelope Cruz, as Jung’s wife, is on screen for about five minutes before he starts screeching at him, too. Meanwhile, the late scenes dealing with Depp and Cruz’s divorce play like they were written by someone in a men’s rights subreddit. 

Only Run Lola Run‘s Franka Potente, as Yung’s girlfriend in his California days, is something other than a screaming harridan, but she barely even survives the first act. (Emma Roberts and Jamie King play Jung’s young daughter at different ages, but neither of them speaks much.) 

BLOW
Image via New Line Cinema

Blow was directed by Ted Demme, who also made Beautiful Girls and some other notable ’90s films; it would be Demme’s final feature film prior to his death at age 38, less than a year after Blow‘s release. It’s certainly an aesthetically pleasing picture. I especially admire the commitment to Depp’s hair, which changes subtly, sometimes from scene to scene. For one segment of the film, he and Cruz have the exact same hairdo, which is probably the most memorable detail in all of Blow

Now Streaming

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and RogerEbert.com. In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tilt Magazine Logo
Pop culture from all angles...

Trending

Goodfellas Anniversary Review Goodfellas Anniversary Review

30 Years Later: Goodfellas Captured Lightning in a Bottle

Film

Crazy Samurai Musashi Review Crazy Samurai Musashi Review

Fantasia 2020: Tak Sakaguchi Takes on an Army in Crazy Samurai Musashi

Film

The Mary Tyler Moore Show The Mary Tyler Moore Show

The Mary Tyler Moore Show at 50

TV

Beverly Hills, 90210 Beverly Hills, 90210

Beverly Hills, 90210 at 30: The 25 Best Scenes

TV

100 Greatest Horror Movie Scenes 100 Greatest Horror Movie Scenes

Greatest Horror Movie Scenes

Film

Horror Movie Scenes Horror Movie Scenes

Greatest Horror Movie Scenes

Film

Jeremiah Johnson Western Review Jeremiah Johnson Western Review

Jeremiah Johnson is the Most Beautiful Western

Film

Fantasia 2020: Tiny Tim: King For a Day is a Moving Look at an American Curiosity

Film

The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw

The Real ‘Curse of Audrey Earnshaw’ is Wasted Potential

Film

Cosmic Candy Cosmic Candy

Fantasia 2020: Cosmic Candy Hides Reality Behind a Quirky Exterior

Film

Greatest Horror Movie Scenes Greatest Horror Movie Scenes

Greatest Horror Movie Scenes

Film

The Legend of Baron To’a The Legend of Baron To’a

Fantasia 2020: The Legend of Baron To’a Exemplifies New Zealand Cinema

Film

Connect