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Blow is the true story of the rise and fall (and rise and fall) of drug king George Jung, the man who was responsible for introducing cocaine to the American people during the 1970s and 80s. He began the way most drug users do; puffing on some marijuana all-too-regularly with his buddies before being introduced to the harder stuff. Teaming up with his best friend Tuna and another buddy from back home, Kevin, the three began selling pot to drug users in Boston thanks to George’s air hostess girlfriend. And boy, did they make a packet. But like any self-respecting drug lord, George knew he had bigger fish to fry.

There was no doubt this man had some serious business sense, even though most of his other senses seemed to leave him. After being arrested and jailed for possession of marijuana, George is paired with a well-connected gentleman in his cell who introduces him to the infamous Pablo Escobar upon his release. He was on the way up even though he had made a habit of skipping bail and parole. Before long he had made some influential contacts and was soon stamping himself as the main man when it came to obtaining some “blow”. Supplying almost 85% of American drug users with cocaine made George a popular man, but he was also pretty popular with the authorities. He had already been jailed thanks to a tip-off from his own mother, skipped bail to look after his cancer-stricken girlfriend and jumped straight back into the drug trade just hours after his release.

Being rich and influential wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. George wasn’t welcome back home with his parents and his new wife was battling an addiction to the drug he supplied. The only shining light in his life was his young girl, Kristina. According to George, she was all he lived for.

The Hilton was out of the question...
Like most other stories about drug use and cocaine barons the story isn’t all that uplifting and predictably ends with several falls from grace. Nevertheless, the tale of George Jung and his messed up life makes great fodder for a biopic, with so much going on it would have been difficult to include every detail. Director Ted Demme has done a great job of dealing with some interesting subject matter and an even more interesting human subject. Johnny Depp once again shines and is totally suited to the role, while the brilliant supporting cast helps to make believable characters out of an almost unbelievable story. Penelope Cruz shows some real talent playing George’s wife, while Ray Liotta and Paul Reubens show they have gone through somewhat of an acting renaissance, with both men landing some good roles and putting in some outstanding work of late. Gone are the days of Escape From Absolom and Big Top Pee Wee for those two; like George, they’ve got bigger fish to fry. Even Australia’s own Rachel Griffiths does her bit as the intentionally grating mother of George, complete with the nasal accent. Good performances all round.

Blow is an extremely interesting film that handles familiar subject matter with aplomb. There are no hints of sensationalism or plot coincidence, with Demme merely letting the story of George Jung run its remarkable course. It certainly won’t make you wanna go out and sniff anything in the near future, nor will it encourage anyone to deal drugs to a large population. If George’s fate is anything to go by, you wouldn’t wish that sort of life upon anyone.

Video
Again Roadshow have pulled through with a brilliant transfer. Presented in 2.35:1 and 16:9 enhanced, the cinematography that looked so good in theatres is done justice by some sharp and vibrant visuals. There is a hint of edge enhancement but nothing to really distract from the movie.  Look out for the meeting with Pablo Escobar, one of the standout scenes from the film that looks perfect on this DVD. There are plenty of dark scenes, which are rendered very well, while the more colourful and bright parts of the film look particularly good. Almost made me want to go and jump in the pool at one stage. And with a whole bunch of drug baron groupies swimming around, who would blame me?

Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is quite good without being remarkable. Several ambient sounds and numerous effects are used to fill the rear channels, while there are moments when the speakers are used to full effect and perform admirably. Take the airport scene as an example. Being a dialogue-driven movie it was never intended to blow you away (pardon the pun) but this is pretty much as good as it could have been. Dialogue is clear at all times, even if Johnny Depp and his character seem to mumble quite a bit.

Where this audio mix really comes into its own is with the soundtrack. Demme has put together some really cool tracks, which are certainly appropriate to the film. Bands such as the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Louis Armstrong are utilised to full effect while old favourites such as Black Betty and Blinded By The Light sound particularly good pumping out of the surrounds. Top work.

KMart had a sale on floral shirts
Extras
To back up a particularly good flick there is also a very decent extras package, with some obvious effort put in to make this the best possible supplements package one could scrape together.

First up is the Audio Commentary from Ted Demme and George Jung, with the latter putting together his pieces straight from his prison cell. Obviously these two weren’t recording at the same time so there are times when the track seems a little stilted, but that is forgivable considering Jung’s situation. I don’t think they have a HT set-up in jail, so this is the next best thing. What both of the men have to say is extremely interesting, adding weight to the argument that any good biopic that is transferred to DVD should have a commentary from its subject. This film and Chopper are the perfect examples.

The George Jung Interviews are in the same sort of fashion to those in the commentary. Recorded while Ted Demme visited Jung in prison, the eight segments are cut together with footage form behind the scenes and of Jung himself. Very interesting to listen to, if a little brief.

A couple of featurettes are also included, entitled Lost Paradise: Cocaine’s Impact On Columbia and Addiction: Body & Soul. The former deals with the drug trade in Columbia and how it affects the lifestyle there. It is an extremely interesting documentary and shows everything in all its graphic detail. Well worth a look. The latter featurette looks at how people are affected by drugs. Certainly one to put you off taking drugs all together, which as to be a good thing. Both of these are of reasonable video quality, though nowhere near as good as the feature.

Also included is Ted Demme’s production diary from the sixty-three day shoot. I’ve always been a fan of these things and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint. Visual quality isn’t all that good but doesn’t distract too much from the twelve segments put together.

The deleted scenes section shows ten different scenes that were cut from the movie, with an option of hearing from Ted Demme as to why they were cut. These run for about twenty-five minutes.

The last major feature on the discs is a character outtakes section where all the main players speak in character about George Jung. I would assume these were meant to be used throughout the film but may have been cut due to pacing reasons or the like. Would have been good to include some words from Ted Demme about their significance, but this is still good to watch. All the actors are very convincing, with this sort of style really asking each of them to think about their character and respond to the questions accordingly. Worth a look.

The supplements are rounded off by a Nikki Costa music video of Push & Pull, a fact track which can be played during the film, a theatrical trailer and teaser trailer as well as cast and crew biographies. All in all a high quality supplements package that would satisfy even the most demanding of DVD addicts. Top stuff.

The Taco Bell staff party
Overall
This is an extremely interesting film. The whole movie oozes such a believable charm that you’re drawn in right from the beginning. The nature of the subject matter and the life of George Jung make for compelling viewing, and Director Ted Demme has given the film the life it needed on the big screen. Couple this with quality video and audio and a jam-packed extras package, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this film. If you’re satisfied with what you see this disc will be a worthy addition to any collection.


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