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Based on the true story of how powder cocaine turned into the United States' biggest drug problem and how one man from the blue-collar suburbs became the 35 billion-dollar-a-year conduit to the Colombian cartels. George Jung pursued what he thought was the American Dream. Rather than become just another construction worker like his father, George moves to California where he discovers the profitable pleasures of selling marijuana. A spell in prison introduces him to big-time Colombian dealers, and soon George is involved with their plan to export tons of cocaine to US shores. Becoming fabulously wealthy, he will take a dizzying fall that will knock him out of the underworld.
For more about Blow and the Blow Blu-ray release, see Blow Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on April 19, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Ted Demme
Writers: Nick Cassavetes, David McKenna
Starring: Johnny Depp, PenÚlope Cruz, Jordi MollÓ, Franka Potente, Rachel Griffiths, Ethan Suplee
» See full cast & crew
Blow Blu-ray Review
"We don't have a drug problem in this country, we have a problem of parental guidance." George Jung
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, April 19, 2009
I'm a huge fan of Goodfellas, Casino, and most other films that are based on the drug-laden exploits of the mafia. On it's exterior, Blow would seem to fit into that category, since it follows the rise and fall of "entrepreneurial" men, and doesn't pull punches when displaying the downward spiral of those that involve themselves in the drug trade (both as users and dealers). But unfortunately, Blow is a sheep dressed in wolf's clothing, since it strives for so much more than it really is, yet never actually grasps the elements that made Goodfellas such a wonderful film. I know it might be unfair to directly compare Blow to such an iconic movie, but Ted Demme (director) almost seems to beg the audience to draw comparisons by using elements taken straight out of Martin Scorses' playbook. I'll touch a bit more on that later in this review.
As a young boy, George Jung (Johnny Depp) witnessed his mother's endless tirades about the family's financial situation, and despite his father's hard-working etiquette, he realized he did not want to become like his father and struggle to provide for himself or his family . When George is old enough to find his own way in life, he moves to California, and soon learns he can accomplish his financial goals by dealing marijuana along the beach. George is a natural in the world of the drug trade, and establishes his own contact in Mexico to meet the rising demand for weed. Inevitably, George is caught smuggling the drugs, and is eventually sentenced to two years in prison. While in prison, he develops a new contact with ties to Columbia, who offers him a position as a middleman in the rising cocaine business. George agrees, and turns his attention to smuggling cocaine (or blow, as the name of the film references) into the US. Unfortunately (for him), his rapid financial rise is soon followed by a sudden and inevitable fall as he learns he can't trust anyone around him, and loses contact with those he holds most dear.
I don't want to come across too negative, so I'll begin by saying Blow is an entertaining way to spend a couple hours. The acting is mostly excellent, with another standout performance by Johnny Depp. In fact, I don't recall many scenes where Depp wasn't present, which most of us can agree is a good thing. The cinematography is also nicely done, with a real attention to detail as the film progresses through different decades. Along those same lines, I was impressed with the soundtrack, which incorporates a lot of classic music that will be instantly recognizeable to those that lived through the 70's and 80's.
On the downside, the film is far too ambitious for a two hour runtime, so many scenes felt slightly abbreviated. I don't think a longer runtime would have helped the situation, since the subject matter of the film is simply not interesting enough to warrant any longer than a two hour time investment. Sadly, the film lacks the intensity and edge we've come to expect from other films in the drug/mafia genre, and part of that is due to the lack of violence in the film. The threat of jailtime almost seems trivial after you've seen Jung get busted time after time, and still go right back to making the same bad decisions. From the very beginning of Blow, I felt like I was watching a film inspired by Goodfellas (same narrative structure, angry wives, and we even have an appearance by Ray Liotta as the father of George), but it lacked the entertainment value of it's predecessor.
As a side note, it started to get on my nerves watching Johnny Depp undergo the different bleach blonde hairstyle transitions in the film. I know they were likely trying to make him look as much like the real-life Jung as possible, but I didn't think it was necessary to give him such an outrageous look throughout the film. It almost borders on comical at times, and I commend Depp for still turning in such a good performance despite the ridiculous hairstyles he's sporting. Along the same lines, the fake pot-belly on Depp during the closing 30 minutes of the film adds to his ridiculous look, and is just as unnecessary as the crazy hair.
Blow Blu-ray, Video Quality
Blow is presented in 1080p using the VC-1 codec, with an average bitrate that hovers around 30 MBPS. Overall, this is an excellent transfer, with a superb level of detail and inky blacks. In fact, I only had three nitpick complaints with the transfer, but they are still worth mentioning. First, there appears to be a slight use of DNR in some scenes, since grain is completely absent (which seems odd in a movie set during the 70's and 80's), and some facial textures appear a little waxy at times. I don't think DNR was used throughout the entire feature, since facial textures in some scenes look nice and crisp, but I do think it was used sporatically. Fortunately, overall detail in the film does not take a hit due to DNR, though there are still 3 or 4 scenes that don't look nearly as detailed as the rest of the feature. The second nitpick, is the appearance of washed out skin tones at the beginning of the film. This could be a stylistic choice on the part of the filmmakers, and only lasts during the first 10 or 15 minutes of the feature, but the tones just don't look natural. Otherwise, color saturation is excellent, and this is a transfer that comes extremely close to a demo-worthy ranking.
Blow Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As with most New Line titles, the film begins automatically without an option to switch the audio track from the menu. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is not the primary track, so you'll want to switch to the lossless track as soon as the film begins. The soundtrack is pure retro bliss, with a heavy emphasis on horns and organ. Although the music may seem a little bright at times, I'm pretty sure this is representative of what the filmmakers were going for, and adds to the period nature of the film.
Blow is a dialogue-heavy film, but there's still an adequate level of surround activity to enhance the setting of most scenes. For instance, the sequence in the penitentiary cafeteria contains a subtle use of chatter in the rear channels to create a feeling you are locked up with the prisoners. The dialogue throughout the film is perfectly balanced with the music and ambient noise, so you won't find yourself having to adjust the volume levels or straining to hear what is taking place. Lastly, the track is well-defined, with accurate highs and lows.
Blow Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are several interesting features you can select if you decide to watch the film a second time. First up, there's a "Focus Points" feature that presents an icon from time to time during the film, and takes you to a brief making-of feature. Second, there's a commentary track with Ted Demme (director) and George Jung, which is a lot of fun considering we have the unique opportunity to hear a first person account of what takes place in the film. Lastly, there's an optional "Fact Track" feature, which presents subtitles during the film that reveal history, facts and other trivia. I really appreciated the way these in-film extras were presented, since it gives you a chance to enjoy them all at the same time (without having to watch the film 4 separate times).
George Jung Interviews(1080P [4:3], Dolby Digital 2.0, 16:07 min): Director Ted Demme conducts a series of interviews with the real-life George Jung, asking questions about his life experiences and his feelings on the film. Out of all the supplements, this was the most interesting, since it helps humanize the drama that unfolds in the film.
Lost Paradise: Cocaine's Impact on Columbia (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 23:42 min): Presented in Spanish with English subtitles, this documentary contains interviews and clips that address the violent history of Columbia, and the affect cocaine production has had on present-day Columbia. If you have any interest in the subject matter, this documentary is fascinating.
Addiction: Body and Soul (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 6:29 min): This brief feature includes interviews with experts and individuals struggling with addiction. There really isn't much meat to this supplement, so I wouldn't recommend you waste your time.
Alternate and Deleted Scenes (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 28:30 min): There's a wealth of extra scenes and alternate takes, but none of them really add much to the film (so it's clear why they were removed from the final product).
Character Outtakes (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 9:24 min): A complete waste of time, with actors from the film answering questions in character. I expected some comedy in these outtakes, but it's just not there.
Production Diary (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 17:32 min): This is a collection of rough shots on the set with the filmmakers and actors during Ted Demme's 63 day shoot. I didn't find it all that interesting, but you may feel differently.
Lastly, there are high-definition trailers for the film, and a music video for Nikka Costa's song "Push and Pull".
Blow Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Blow is a difficult film to recommend, since I didn't find the subject matter that interesting, and the execution of the film becomes a little redundant. Most viewers will naturally compare this film with other films in it's genre, and it frankly does not hold up well next to the gems I've mentioned in this review. From a technical standpoint, there's not much to complain about, so if you've seen the movie already, and you know you're a fan; I'd say run out and get this film on Blu-ray. If you haven't seen Blow, I'd recommend you rent it first, since I don't think it will resonate well with the majority of viewers, and is not something I plan to watch again in the near future.
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Blow Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - September 23 - September 23, 2008
Today marks the Blu-ray releases of what are generally accepted as two of the best films ever made: 'The Godfather' and 'The Godfather Part II'. Released as part of 'The Godfather Collection: The Coppola Restoration' Blu-ray box set, these films represent the pinnacle ...
• Blow Announced for Blu-ray - July 14, 2008
New Line Home Entertainment in conjunction with Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring the Johnny Depp drama 'Blow' to Blu-ray on September 23rd. The film, which is based on the true life story of cocaine drug dealer George Jung, will be presented ...
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