Blow: Infinifilm Series
New Line // R // $26.99 // September 11, 2001
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted August 26, 2001
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The Movie:

Director Ted Demme's hazy drug biography "Blow" doesn't really bring much new to the table in terms of biopics, but it does make a place for itself in the midst of other recent drug epics "Traffic" and "Requiem For a Dream" . The film stars Johnny Depp as real-life drug dealer George Jung, who single-handedly reportedly fueled the rise in Cocaine in the 80's. The film starts off in Jung's Massachusetts childhood, where his mother (Rachel Griffiths) was consistently displeased with the results of his hard-working father (Ray Liotta).

George swears from that day on that he'll never end up poor. Striking out on his own, he ends up in California with pals Tuna (Ethan Suplee of "Mallrats") and stewardess Barbara (Franka Potente of "Run Lola Run"). He finds out that he can make a great deal of cash selling pot that he's getting from Barbara's hairdresser Derek (Paul Rubens). He realizes that he's doing well enough to expand his business outwards, but with the expansion of such business brings severe risk. He sets up a distribution system with Barbara where the drugs are being transported to the East Coast - since she's a stewardess, her bags are not checked (I'd be interested to know if this little fact is really true).

It's obvious that George is eventually going to be caught, and he does slip up. When he returns to California, the old gang has split up and things become largely less sunny. Barbara dies unexpectedly and George hits a wall - he's now become a fugitive from the law. He comes home to his parents where he tells his father that he's good at what he does, to which his father responds, "you could have been good at anything". The police are waiting outside and after that, we find ourselves in the midst of the film's second half.

George is locked away in prison and it looks as if his life's going nowhere. His roommate in prison is curious about what makes George tick and eventually, the two discuss what George's business was in the past. He suggests that George should switch-up his business plan and sell Cocaine instead of the pot that he's been smuggling and dealing in the past. That's where the picture starts to become something different and darker altogether. George becomes involved with the Colombian drug lords, who are dangerous folks to deal with; he finds himself a new wife (Penelope Cruz), whose growing addiction turns her sour.

"Blow" is an interesting picture. Its fuel is mainly style, which it has in spades. Demme throws together different film stocks, color palettes and camera tricks to throw us into the story. What it doesn't offer a great deal of, unfortunately, is character detail. George is the only character who gets the focus of the movie's attention and thankfully, Depp is fantastic. Self-assured, confident and dramatic. Cruz, on the other hand, who is a lovely actress with a honey voice, is simply allowed to be a shrill, angry woman who occasionally gets George in even deeper trouble than he's already in. She's previously played sweet, delicate, beautiful souls - this character doesn't suit her in the least.

Demme's style gives the picture energy, but it doesn't give it direction. The film's scenes feel like episodes of their own and as it heads into the second half, I was longing for it to head towards a distinct point rather than be a series of ups and downs. That, and it would have been nice to get more insight into the man himself and the scene. "Blow" includes little in the way of "Casino"-esque looks behind-the-scenes, with the exception of the opening credits where we're taken on a tour of a cocaine farm. Nor are there really any instances of scenes where the damage that the drug does are really portrayed.

"Blow" certainly isn't a terrible picture, but I wasn't entirely as engaged or as interested in the story of George Jung as I would have liked to have been. There's a more interesting story buried underneath "Blow", but unfortunately it never rises to the surface of an only occasionally compelling picture.


VIDEO: New Line Home Video presents "Blow" in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Although New Line's presentations have always been top-notch, things have really not changed much since they have started packing their discs with features. "13 Days" was the first of the "Infinifilm" series and the picture quality was a little off, but the studio has rebounded terrifically with "15 Minutes" and their latest, "Blow". "Blow" throws several different color palettes and film styles at the screen, but the transfer calmly and coolly presents all of the different visual styles with ease. Some of the early scenes are presented in a soft manner, but still come through with fine detail and definition. The rest of the movie looks sharp, crisp and offers fine depth and detail.

There's little fault to be found with the image quality. I noticed a few minor traces of pixelation, but the rest of the movie seemed utterly clean and clear. Print flaws are completely absent and the picture doesn't show any instances of edge enhancement or other flaws. Colors, depending on the passage in the movie, generally looked bright and vibrant, with no problems. Flesh tones also looked accurate and natural. Another superb transfer from New Line.

SOUND: "Blow" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film is largely a dialogue-driven affair, with occasional outward expansion from ambient sounds and the music. Surrounds come in occasionally, doing fine work re-inforcing the tunes from the various eras. Ambient sounds are delivered rather inconsistently; some scenes present them lightly while others have the surrounds simply silent. A couple of moments have the sounds of airplanes passing overhead.

Audio quality was perfectly fine. The music sounded superb and came through with great strength and energy. The ambient sounds - birds, etc, sounded realistic and natural. Dialogue also came through sounding natural and clear, as well. A very nice audio presentation, but nothing groundbreaking or suprising.

MENUS:: As usual, New Line provides interesting animated menus, with nice use of film-themed images and music in the background.


Commentary: This is a commentary from director Ted Demme and George Jung. Demme is an interesting character who speaks intelligently and provides a lot of informative and insightful bits during much of the track. He keeps things consistent and doesn't veer all over the place, starting off the film with a fine discussion of what inspired him to start the project in the first place. Jung (who sounds vaguely like Depp at times) has been recorded separately, since he's still in prison; he occasionally pops in on the track to discuss the real-life stories behind some of the scenes. He's an interesting speaker, as well, and I would have liked to have heard a little more from him. Demme provides a good listen, though. He's funny, informative and is willing to discuss those in the crew who played a particular role in inspiring an element of a scene. There's a few minor pauses of silence here and there throughout the track, but for the most part, the two participants keep things going very well.

Infinifilm Track: What can be said about the Infinifilm option that really hasn't been said already throughout the course of previous reviews? It's an interesting idea - providing users the ability to jump to supplemental features that have to do with the current scene, but it's not one that hasn't been done before. Personally, I don't mind the option (and, essentially, that's what it is - an option), but I'm more impressed with the material itself than having to integrate it into the experience. New Line has produced some phenomenal supplemental material that has to do with the subject rather than the production, but the "Infinifilm" option likely will force those features to be on the first disc, instead of making two-disc sets.

Documentaries: As I mentioned in the "Infinifilm Track" section, New Line has again produced fine documentaries that take a further look into not the production, but the subject matter of the movie. "Lost Paradise" is a 25 minute documentary that takes viewers into the history of the drug trade and includes interviews with some of the main players. It's a graphic documentary at times, but those who are interested in what's portrayed in the film might find this informative. It's presented in Spanish with English subtitles. Addiction: Body and Soul is a six minute featurette that provides interviews and information about the effects of alcohol and drug addiction.

Deleted Scenes: 10 deleted scenes are presented with optional commentary from director Ted Demme. These scenes are mainly taken out for the reason of time, or for the fact that the information has been covered already elsewhere. Thankfully, "play all" can be chosen for this section rather than having the viewer go from scene to scene.

George Jung Interviews: 8 separate interviews pieces are presented with director Ted Demme interviewing Jung about various things from the pre-production of the movie to casting to stories about his life and times.

Production Diary: At first look, one might mistake this for some text-based supplement, but it's something definitely more interesting. This section provides 12 short featurettes that take the viewer onto the set for what went on during that particular day of the 67 day shoot, with director Demme playing host. Each of the separate featurettes last a couple of minutes each. Again, "play all" can thankfully be chosen.

Trailers: This section includes the exciting and interesting teaser trailer (the one with "Connected" by the Stereo MCs in the background) as well as the full theatrical trailer. Both are in Dolby Digital 5.1

Character Outtakes: This section provides short clips of the main characters discussing their thoughts about George. Interesting, but will only probably be something that viewers check out once.

Also: Cast and crew bios, Nikka Costa music video, subtitle fact track, DVD-ROM features including script-to-screen and web-link.

Final Thoughts: "Blow" has it's positives and negatives. It's a watchable picture, but only mildly engaging and interesting. Although I'm still a bit mixed on the "Infinifilm" option itself of integrating supplemental features directly into the movie, I do have to applaud the studio on the features themselves, which are interesting looks into the subject matter involved. As per usual with the studio's releases, audio/video quality is excellent and you get a fine overall package. I'm a bit so-so on the film itself, but fans of the film will be more than pleased with the DVD, while others may find it a satisfying rental.

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