‘Blow’ Doesn’t Suck

BY JIM ’01<

My grand entrance to the Church Street screening of “Blow” was perfectly timed. The previews had just ended, and the screen was completely dark, forcing me to feel my way into the inky recesses of the stadium seating with a laptop computer on one shoulder and a duffel bag full of sweaty gym clothes on the other. I had been made late by the female version of Boo Radley, who – despite having dedicated the bulk of her professional career to selling movie tickets – has yet to figure out them newfangled credit card swipers.

After tripping over the woman sitting in the aisle seat of a nearly deserted row and hitting some guy in his bald spot with my laptop case, I plunged down next to a single girl with Coke-bottle glasses.

To brighten the mood, I had smuggled in a pint of chocolate milk and a large portion of nauseating Hark food that had leaked a mysterious yellowish liquid throughout the interior of my gym bag. I was not really that hungry. I just wanted to piss people off, and few things are as inherently maddening as an oversized Styrofoam container emitting noxious fumes. I offered some of my grapefruit, orange and artificial coconut salad to Coke-bottles, but she just glared at me with her enormous eyes. Maybe it was the fact that I had forgotten a fork.

The crowd was rather eclectic for a movie about a ’70s drug smuggler. There was the average share of Cambridge weirdoes, sitting alone with their unkempt beards and body odor to keep them company – you know the women I am talking about. They probably had several Nobel prizes among them.

There were some young lovers who could not keep their mouths shut and would make comments like “heh, heh, DRUGS!” or “Cocaine, man … cool!” throughout the picture. These probable undergrads would not know what to do with an ounce of weed if it dropped in their lap.

The really odd demographic was the elderly members of the audience. The theater looked like the site of a Shady Acres field trip minus the orange Jello. Perhaps they thought “Blow” was the long-awaited sequel to “Gone with the Wind.” At any rate, they made an exodus for the exits beginning about 15 minutes before the end of the movie. I am not sure that is necessarily a bad commentary on the movie. If I ever make a film, I will be insulted if the senior citizens don’t take off a lot earlier.

As the film began with the word “BLOW” emblazoned on the screen in giant red, white and blue lettering, I was thinking what a strange title that was for a movie – unless that movie stars John Holmes. It would be akin to entitling a film “Suck.” Besides the obvious oral connotations, such titles do not forecast high quality content. I realize that in this case the title referred to that fine white powder we have all come to know and love. However, I cannot escape the feeling that a movie that takes its title from outdated drug slang might be trying a bit too hard at fitting in with the cool movies.

As it turns out, this was reflected in the plot of the film, which mainly consisted of a glorification of the drug culture of the late sixties and seventies. Johnny Depp made the film worthwhile by playing George Jung, who, if we are to believe his version of events, introduced Colombian cocaine to the American market.

I really enjoyed the first part of the movie. Jung moves from Massachu-setts to Manhattan Beach, does not feel like working too hard and winds up selling marijuana. He eventually cuts out the middle man and begins buying his product directly from Mexico. Through his stewardess girlfriend, Franka Potente of “Run, Lola, Run” fame, he transports the pot to the East Coast, because, as he says, “You can’t get shit like this at home.” His partner in the deal is Pee Wee Herman, who plays a flamboyantly homosexual hairdresser, drug dealer and general backstabber. In other words, it’s pretty much the ideal role for an actor looking to shed his negative reputation and recapture prepubescent viewers.

Jung does a couple of years in the big house and meets a Colombian who eventually introduces him to Pablo Escobar and Jung’s eventual wife, played by Penelope Cruz. The rest is history, and very interesting history, I might add. The movie’s exploration of the transition in American society that led to the spread of cocaine use from coast to coast was curiously captivating.

The formula was a bit familiar, however. Jung goes from the carefree kid to the drug kingpin living in a mansion and driving expensive cars. He has a beautiful wife (and when I say beautiful, I mean Penelope Cruz-beautiful) and a young daughter. Then suddenly, in the last half-hour of the film, everything goes down the toilet. He loses his money, his family and his freedom and ends up a trashy, chain-smoking bum with a pot belly and a pathetic Rod Stewart-esque haircut. I felt like I was watching “Boogie Nights” or any number of movies with a rags-to-riches-to-rags drug theme.

The movie did not deal with an especially novel concept, and the “crime doesn’t pay” moralistic ending seemed a bit hypocritical considering the initial exaltation of drug dealers. However, the fact that the film was partly nonfiction made it more interesting. Furthermore, Johnny Depp enlivened the film to a certain extent. There were some genuinely funny moments, especially with Depp constantly attempting to speak Spanish to his Latin connections, and some poignant moments as well. Overall, the film was well worth the time spent in cramped quarters with a bunch of freaks and a leaky carton full of Harkness Delight. On second thought, maybe not.

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