Based on Bruce Porter’s enthralling tell-all biography of George Jung, drug-trafficker — Blow: How a Smalltown Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellin Cocaine Cartel and Lost it All — Blow (2001) is a great film, both entertaining and informative about the drug culture that grew exponentially from the early 70s through to the 80s. For the convincing picture it portrays of this period, the DVD is worth the price alone…
It is also one of Jonathan Demme‘s best directed films (you’ll recall, he’s likely still far better known for The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Philadelphia (1993) and the disappointing remake of The Manchurian Candidate (2004)).
Arguably, this movie has Johnny Depp’s best performance to date and, through him and the film in general, you are shown the magic, wonder, riches and, ultimately, self-destruction, of the drugs trade. However, all of this is portrayed without any patronising judgement and conservative morality; the events and characters speak for themselves and that is the most damning evidence to convince and compel us to believe in what we are seeing on the screen.
As mentioned above, this film is based on George Jung’s life story, in which he tells you about starting off in drugs as a small-time dealer in marijuana and then, over time and because of his entrepreneurial spirit — is that rare in spliff smokers — or maybe I simply mean the get-up-and-go-drive-to-action?! — as opposed simply to getting the munchies, staring at the ceiling and laughing occasionally (so I’ve heard – ahem)? — he ends up being, it seems, the biggest dealer/importer of that drug in the US — from the Medellin cocaine cartel in Columbia — within a few years. As the blogger thacourtjester comments below to this post, it seems Jung was the only non-Hispanic member of the cartel, which was radical to say the least during that period. (BTW, cheers for your input and corrections comments —clearly I must’ve been smoking the wrong thing…or, erm…maybe too much of the right thing, when composing this post!)
Thereafter, he began dealing massively in cocaine, which led ultimately to his downfall (not only has he spent many years in prison for the trafficking and dealing of cocaine, it seems he lost all contact with his only daughter, whom he loved dearly; apparently, according to Wikipedia, he’s 69-years-old now and is still serving a 15-year sentence). His biography, listed above, is both compelling and sad (and no, I’m not saying he was justified in his actions!).
For those interested in films about this subject, there are several more, most of which are now regarded as movie classics, or certainly classics of this genre. To save you time/avoid searching, each movie title (not listed in any order) is linked to take you directly to the relevant page on the International Movie Database (IMDB) website.
- American Gangster (2007), with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, directed by Ridley Scott
- Half-Baked (1998), with Dave Chappelle, Guillermo Diaz and Jim Breuer, directed by Tamra Davis. Cheers and thanks to thacourtjester for this fun recommendation
- The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), with Frank Sinatra (probably his best performance ever) and Kim Novak, directed by Otto Preminger
- Traffic (2000) with Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Benico del Toro (in fact, this movie really launched him into stardom), directed by Steven Soderbergh
- Scarface (1983), with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer, directed by Brian de Palma
- Tell Your Children (1936), aka, Reefer Madness when reissued in 1938, it seems. This is a classic bit of religious conservative nonsense in the form of a movie – so listed simply for amusement or, perhaps, bemusement; it’s highly critical and fantastical on the dangers of smoking marijuana; not surprising, given it was made in 1936 and financed by a group of religious conservatives – I make this point without judgement; it’s only a matter of fact! A cast of unknowns, directed by Louis J. Gasnier
- Midnight Express (1978), with Brad Davis and Irene Miracle, directed by Alan Parker
- Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke (1978; talk about a massive contrast to Midnight in the same year of release!). This is an out-and-out zany, wackidoodle, yet often very funny comedy, with Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, directed by Lou Adler
Enjoy, you groovy dudes, you! And, BTW, if you have any favourite drug(s)-related movies I haven’t listed, please do let me know by zapping me a comment or a tweet and I’ll update the list with an acknowledgement of your recommendation. All the best.