A movie about drugs should stimulate. A movie about George Jung, the man who introduced Colombian cocaine to America in the mid-1970s, ought to cook. But there’s only one great scene in Blow, a moment that shows why acts of recklessness can seem worth the risk. Jung (played admirably by Johnny Depp) struts through a Miami airport, clutching a suitcase full of drug money. His swagger, set to the beat of ”Black Betty,” is all sex and rhythm, a cocksure thumb at authority. Coming down from this fun is a bitch.
Director Ted Demme, embarrassingly enamored of his subject, has launched less of a character portrait than a campaign to elicit sympathy (and a suspended sentence?) for the now-imprisoned Jung. What’s so irritating is not his glorification of a drug dealer, or even the pretty, irrelevant presence of Penélope Cruz as Jung’s wife. It’s that scene after scene insists that Jung was just a dreamer, man, a guy with old-fashioned American ambition. And the poor dope was betrayed by his mother, his wife, his friends, the feds, even his beloved daughter (who still hasn’t visited him in jail but has a cameo in the film — ouch). But a distorted sense of self-righteousness doesn’t excuse one’s sins, and it certainly can’t sustain a movie. How’s that for a bust?