BLOW. (2001) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BLOW. (2001) DIRECTED BY TED DEMME. BASED ON THE 1993 BOOK BY BRUCE PORTER: BLOW: HOW A SMALL-TOWN BOY MADE $100 MILLION WITH THE MEDELLIN COCAINE CARTEL AND LOST IT ALL.
STARRING JOHNNY DEPP, PENELOPE CRUZ, FRANKA POTENTE, ETHAN SUPLEE, PAUL REUBENS, JORDI MOLLA, CLIFF CURTIS, BOBCAT GOLDTHWAITE, LOLA GLAUDINI, RACHEL GRIFFITHS AND RAY LIOTTA.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This portrayal of drug-taking and drug-dealing is nearly as sexy and glamorous as that achieved by Brian De Palma’s SCARFACE (1983). The format and narrative voice-overs are reminiscent of GOODFELLAS, and that movie’s lead actor, Ray Liotta, is here in person, not as the criminal this time but as the criminal’s Dad.

Now Ray Liotta himself is playing the over-worked ’50s/60s Pops who’s trying- and failing- to inculcate a certain values system, his own, into his son, but his son doesn’t even want to know. All the son sees is the lure and glamour of easy money, not caring a jot that when you live by the sword, you’re frequently called upon to die by it too. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? You’ll love this film, if you don’t already.

Johnny Depp plays real-life drug-dealer George Jung who, in the ’60s, grew up and moved from his home city of Boston, Massachusetts, to the beaches of California. Here he met and married his first beautiful wife Barbara and, together with his best mate from childhood, the rather fishily-nicknamed Tuna, became the go-to person on the beaches from whom to buy your pot. Marijuana. Mary-Jane. Weed. Grass. Whatever.

Greed seems to be George’s main problem. He goes into the weed business initially with a friend of Barbara’s called Derek Foreal, a fantastically camp, bitchy hairdresser who’s a hard-headed businessman underneath all the kitsch.

When George proves to have a really prodigious talent for selling drugs, however, the temptation to become America’s premiere importer of Colombian cocaine is too hard to resist. He meets Pablo Escobar, the Cocaine King, and goes into business with him and everything, with an introduction from George’s mate Diego Delgado, with whom he’s done some time in prison.

Prison, by the way, seems to serve as just some kind of crime school for guys like George. He admits himself that he went into prison with a Diploma in weed and came out with a PHD in cocaine. So much for rehabilitation, anyway.

The Colombian drug business is a freakin’ terrifying one. Life is cheap in Colombia, we’re told, and we see a man being murdered literally the instant the tall, moustached and outwardly charming Pablo Escobar hoves into sight. Yes, I admit, I was a little attracted to him here…!

The scene where George meets Pablo and works out a system of drug deals with him is like the scene in SCARFACE where Tony Montana does the same with Bolivian cocaine kingpin Alejandro Sosa. In SCARFACE during this scene, F. Murray Abraham as Omar Suarez meets a horrible death at the hands of Sosa’s henchmen. You do not fuck with these guys. Ever.

Things get really sexy and glamorous when George meets Mirtha, played by the most beautiful actress in the world today, Penelope Cruz. She was unbelievably gorgeous with Tom Cruise in VANILLA SKY.

Here, she plays the stunning fiancée of one of the drug-dealers George does business with. If it weren’t for the fact that George enjoys the dubious protection of Pablo Escobar himself, this guy would have gutted George like a fish for stealing his ho.

George and Mirtha have a tempestuous relationship. Mirtha is a bit like Michelle Pfeiffer’s Elvira Hancock character in SCARFACE. Beautiful, stick-thin, addicted to drink and drugs, empty inside but desperately trying to fill that void with glamour, danger and endless excitement.

They have a daughter together, Kristina Sunshine Jung, who’s the light of George’s life but, while he’s still dealing drugs, he’s only going to keep on letting her down.

When his friends Diego and Derek Foreal cut a separate drug deal together that leaves George with only the shaft, George decides to get out of the drugs business forever. Is it that simple? Can it be done? Or will the promise of just one more big deal lure him back in the game? Mirtha is not a cheap wife to keep, and she and Kristina are George’s responsibility.

When his millions of dollars accumulated from all the drug deals he’s made are literally stolen by the Panamanian government, George becomes desperate for cash. Should he pull off one last job? He owes Mirtha child support and alimony, and she’s making noises about keeping Kristina away from him unless he coughs up pronto. One more quick drug deal should do the trick. Shouldn’t it…?

Rachel Griffiths is great here as George’s awful Mum. She’s obsessed with money and the price of everything, and she’s mortified that her only son is a drug dealer for a living. ‘What are you looking at, Mrs. Gracie? Your son’s no prize!’

Ray Liotta as George’s Dad, however, loves his only son to bits and is prepared to maintain contact with him despite what George does for a living. The relationship between George and his Dad and between George and his daughter are the only two bright spots in George’s life.

I always feel really, really sorry for George at the end of the film because it’s Johnny Depp in a padded-out shirt to give him a paunch, but I need to sternly remind myself that George got himself into that pitiful position by selling drugs.

Drugs. The drugs that would have been ruining hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of peoples’ lives while George got richer and richer off the back of it. Everything that happened to him, he seems to have brought it on himself.

But oh my God, it’s a long-haired Johnny Depp in a padded-out shirt! Can’t I please just cut him a teensy-weensy break here…? Lol. It’s hard to feel contempt or disgust for anyone who’s played by the divine Johnny Depp.

The film has a fantastic ‘Seventies soundtrack. The songs they’ve chosen are perfect for montages, whether it be the taking drugs montages or the getting-rich-quick montages. Dontcha just love montages?

While watching the film for the first time back in about 2003, I had a kind of personal epiphany during Manfred Mann’s ‘Blinded By The Light’ and decided to actively turn my life around after a bad break-up.

That’s a really clear example of a song’s power to change someone’s life for the better. Well, it was mostly for the better. I kissed an awful lotta frogs during this period but it eventually led me to something wonderful so I can’t complain.

God, why are films about drug-dealers always so goddamned sexy? They glamorise drug-taking and drug-dealing and make you envy the lifestyle, the houses, the cars, the private planes and sunshine islands, the sexy consorts, the perks, the prizes, the rich pickings. But when you remember that all that’s at the bottom of it is human misery, human suffering and human degradation, it kind of puts things into their proper perspective.

It’s all built on sand, you see, and can collapse at any minute. It’s a house of sand and fog, lol. Please remember that when you sell your first bag of weed to a dopey stoned teenager. Now, preaching time is over. Watch this film. You’ll love it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

FROM HELL. (2001) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

FROM HELL. (2001) DIRECTED BY THE HUGHES BROTHERS. STARRING JOHNNY DEPP, HEATHER GRAHAM, IAN HOLM, ROBBIE COLTRANE, IAN RICHARDSON, SUSAN LYNCH AND LESLEY SHARP. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This film tells the story of notorious English sex-murderer, Jack the Ripper. Well, it tells one of the stories. Theories abound as to the identity of the killer, who was never caught and brought to justice and this film, loosely based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, concentrates on just one of these theories. I bought the graphic novel, and a massive tome it is too, a couple of years ago but I haven’t read it yet. I must get around to it.

Not to give away the plot or anything, but the top-hatted, cloaked and medical-bag-wielding baddie is really, really bad in this film. He brutally murders and eviscerates five East End prostitutes because they were all witnesses to the secret marriage between Prince Edward, the Queen’s grandson, and Alice Crook, their friend and a commoner like themselves. Don’t worry, that’s not really a spoiler, as it’s made dead, dead clear from fairly early on.

Edward, who has clearly been leading a double life, now has a child by Alice, and that child is the legitimate heir to the English throne. Oh, shit… I don’t know if this marriage ever happened in real life or not, but I do know that the prince is supposed to have incurable syphilis in the film and he’s not expected to live too long on it, in which case, what was he doing getting married and having children he wouldn’t be around to help raise…? Bit irresponsible, if you ask me.

The poor prozzies, though, being killed wholesale like that. Yeah, as if their lives weren’t miserable enough already. That’s one of the things that struck me most about the film, the sheer, unrelenting misery, drudgery and uncertainty of their horrible lives, which in all fairness, the film does manage to capture. Every last one of the actresses portraying the ‘bangtails’ turns in an excellent performance. Their on-screen deaths are disturbing to watch and very, very sad.

Anyway, enter handsome devil Johnny Depp as the absinthe-swigging, opium-addled Inspector Frederick Abberline, whose job it is to catch the killer. This he does with the aid of his subordinate and friend, Sergeant Peter Godley, ably played by Hagrid. Ooops, sorry, I meant Robbie Coltrane. Abberline is a smart cookie, if a bit of a loose cannon. He quickly figures out the identity of the villain, but the powers-that-be close ranks to protect said villain.

What happens to poor hapless Alice Crook, mother to the little heir to the throne, is appalling. That was another thing that really struck me about the film, the way that people could be dragged away from their homes and families and locked up for life in a Victorian asylum- the worst kind of asylum- with the front part of their brain missing. Is that even a legitimate medical procedure? Is it still done today?

And all because it was decided that they, the unfortunate, ill-starred patients, knew too much about a delicate matter or even just because someone somewhere didn’t like the cut of their gib. It’s a terrifying concept, and sadly not the sole preserve of the Victorians either, which makes it even scarier to contemplate.

Women in particular seem to have had zero rights and zero say over what happened to them back then. As far as I know, if your husband wanted rid of you, desired control of your fortune and wished to install a new woman in your place, all he had to do was say you were out of your tree with insanity and have you committed, and all with the stroke of a quill from the husband and probably the family doctor as well. The husband might even have promised the doctor a cut of his wife’s inheritance for agreeing to collude with him.

Johnny Depp, whose cockney accent ain’t half bad, guv’nor, makes the mistake as Abberline of falling for one of the hookers. And the film-makers have given him a tragic back-story as well. The poor fellow has been unlucky in love. I can’t imagine that a love affair with the most tragic of all Jack the Ripper’s victims will help advance him much in his own life.

The film is a bit too slick, stylish and sort of Hollywood-y for me, but it still does a more than passable job of capturing the bleakness of life in Victorian Whitechapel and the horrible fates in store for people who had neither money, power, nor control over their own lives.

The hookers, played by Susan Lynch, Lesley Sharp, Katrin Cartlidge, Annabelle Apsion, Samantha Spiro and, of course, Heather Graham, all positively steal the show. Much as I love (and fancy!) Johnny Depp, these so-called ‘bangtails’ act the men off the stage, for the most part.

I do love Ian Richardson as the stiff-upper-lipped and heavily mutton-chopped Sir Charles Warren, though, Ian McNeice as the coroner who clearly hates his job and Robbie Coltrane’s Sergeant Godley, Ian Holm as the Queen’s physician, Dr. Gull, and David Schofield as the thug McQueen.

Quite a good cast here actually, including the beautiful Estelle Skornik as a French or Belgian prozzie who befriends the women. You might know her as the woman who starred as ‘Nicole’ opposite Max Douchin’s ‘papa’ in those famous old Renault Clio advertisements donkeys’ years ago. Fun fact for you there!

If you’re an armchair Ripperologist like myself, you’ll probably be annoyed by any little inconsistencies and liberties taken by the script. Roll with it, though, and you’ve got yourself an entertaining little murder mystery that’ll nicely fill a couple of hours on a dark and stormy night. Make sure you lock your doors and windows, though. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, isn’t it? And they never did catch that fella. Did they…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

ED WOOD. (1994) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ED WOOD. (1994) DIRECTED BY TIM BURTON. BASED ON ‘NIGHTMARE OF ECSTASY: THE LIFE AND ART OF EDWARD D. WOOD JR.’ BY RUDOLPH GREY.
STARRING JOHNNY DEPP, MARTIN LANDAU, SARAH JESSICA PARKER, PATRICIA ARQUETTE, LISA MARIE, JULIET LANDAU, BILL MURRAY, JEFFREY JONES AND MAX CASELLA.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’m glad to be able to put in a good word here for heart-throb American actor Johnny Depp, given the hard time he’s been getting in the press lately, with his good name being dragged through the mud and all that. This, in my humble opinion, is one of his best movies.

He’s really good at playing quirky oddbods like Ed Wood, the man sometimes deemed to be the worst film director of all time, and he imbues this performance with all the heart, charm and quirky (yes, again!) humour of which he is capable.

The film portrays budding ‘50s film director, Ed Wood, making basically two science fiction exploitation films, the first being Christine Jorgensen’s life story, filmed as I CHANGED MY SEX or GLEN OR GLENDA by the cross-dressing Ed Wood, the man with a passion for soft, angora sweaters nicked from his girlfriend Dolores. She’s played by Sarah Jessica Parker, of SEX AND THE CITY FAME. It’s not really Ed’s film, as he’s directing it for producer George Weiss, who’s putting up the dough.

The sex-change movie flops, even though Ed Wood has managed to cast his new best friend in it, the former horror actor Bela Lugosi. There’s a really touching relationship/friendship between the two men. Bela is the wise old mentor who’s lived through the golden age of UNIVERSAL horror and Hollywood and has many and varied opinions on things, while Ed Wood just laps up every word that falls from the old man’s lips.

They are teacher and pupil, mentor and mentee, uncle and nephew, even father and son. Ed is even the man Bela calls when he accidentally overdoses on the drugs to which he’s been addicted for years. I love when they’re sitting together in Bela’s mausoleum of a house, the two of them watching his old horror movies together with the two yappy little doggies in tow.

Ed then gets Bela to star in his own film, BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, with Bela attached to play the lead role, a mad scientist/doctor-type who wants to get his revenge on the world by unleashing a race of super-human beings on it, even though he never gets so far as to work on these superior beings, I believe. The movie is a critical and commercial flop, and causes people to riot in the cinemas. Never a good sign, that…

With backing from the church, of all people, the permanently optimistic and upbeat Ed sets out to independently make the film for which he’ll be forever remembered: PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, initially known as GRAVE ROBBERS FROM OUTER SPACE, but the Churchies didn’t dig it…

PLAN 9 will be the last movie ever to star horror legend Bela Lugosi. Footage of his final scenes are heart-breaking. Oh, how Bela had longed to be back in the movie-making business! Martin Landau won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his marvellously sympathetic, delicately nuanced portrayal of the has-been, washed-up actor, two phrases I dislike using in connection with possibly the best horror actor the world has ever seen. Karloff? Don’t say his name in front of Bela. Pah, Karloff!

PLAN 9 is a ludicrous mix of live action with stock cinema footage left over from other productions, props unashamedly nicked by Ed & Co. from other productions and home-made flying saucers incinerated on the set, and all shot at night so they could have the run of the studio and everything in it before the ‘real,’ ‘serious’ film-makers and crews start work for the day.

I adore Lisa Marie as Maila Nurmi, aka the wasp-waisted horror hostess Vampira, and George Steele as professional wrestler Tor Johnson, who each appear in PLAN 9. Bill Murray has a small but very funny part as Ed’s sardonic drag queen friend, and I love Jeffrey Jones as the Great Criswell, a psychic TV entertainer and friend of Ed’s who was known for making mostly wildly inaccurate predictions, lol.

Little Max Casella went on to play Benny Fazio in THE SOPRANOS, my favourite television show ever, and I love that Kathy O’Hara, Ed’s girlfriend after Dolores Fuller, is okay with Ed’s transvestism. He’s not a ‘fruit,’ by the way, he still likes sex with girls! It’s just that he likes to wear their clothes, too!

I really love the scene at the end where Ed and Kathy drive to Vegas in the lashing rain after the premiere of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, the film for which Ed confidently predicts that he’ll be remembered. Oh, that we all could be as optimistic as Ed!

This is a great film about one helluva nice guy who deserves this loving tribute. Him and Bela too. I expect they’re up there together right now, Ed in fluffy pink angora, Bela in his Dracula togs, gabbing away and watching Bela’s old movies. Good on ya, guys. You’ve earned it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

INSIDE. (2007) A GORY FRENCH EXTREMITY HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

inside bathroom

INSIDE. (2007) A FILM BY JULIEN MAURY AND ALEXANDRE BUSTILLO. STARRING BEATRICE DALLE AND ALYSSON PARADIS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Ralph: Do you like French cinema at all, Ted?

Ted: I wouldn’t know about that now, surr.

Ted and Ralph, The Fast Show.

This is a very pointy, stabby film in the genre known as ‘French extremity.’ Well, it’s both these things all right, French and extreme, and I don’t mind telling you right away that it’s much too extreme for me. It’s nothing but stabbing and blood, blood, blood. I don’t mind a bit of blood but this film is all blood. And stabbing. With big sharp scissors mostly, but also with anything that you can make a pointy shiv out of and stab with.

‘Extreme’ in this case just seems to mean lashings, and I do mean lashings, of body horror, gore, blood and, occasionally, guts. It’s the most blood-soaked film I think I’ve ever watched, and I once watched a film on giving birth in my pre-natal classes. Put me right off giving birth, it did, but by that stage it was too late to reverse the process that was already well under way in my uterus.

I like a nice psychological or supernatural horror, for example, where a family moves into a lovely new house and then they find out they’re sharing it with the Amityville Horror. Stuff like that, or where a woman is pregnant but then she discovers that she was unknowingly raped by Satan on a night out where she can’t remember a smidgeon of what happened, and the baby she’s carrying is actually slated to be the next Anti-Christ, stuff like that. That’s what I like.

Some of my favourite horror films, like BURNT OFFERINGS or THE CHANGELING, both about haunted houses, don’t have any blood in them at all and no-one gets stabbed. That’s what I prefer. I think what happened with INSIDE is that the film-makers decided that they were going to make the film as ‘extreme’ as they could to garner good reviews and plenty of attention, but the only way they could think to do that was to put a ton of blood and gore in it. Gore to me equals bore.

This home invasion film actually did get a load of positive reviews, probably from people who thought, oh wow, there’s so much blood and stabbing in this film that it must be great! Hmmm. I’m not saying the film isn’t well-written and executed (no pun intended), in fact it’s extremely well-scripted and acted, but I still didn’t like it because of all the gratuitous stabby, shooty killings.

Here’s the plot, anyway. A sulky, mopey French photographer woman called Sarah is due to give birth and, on Christmas Eve of all nights, her home is invaded by a mysterious madwoman about whom we know nothing, except that she’s beautiful in an odd, off-kilter way, she’s come impractically dressed for stabbing in an over-long black, trippy-uppy dress and her weapon of choice is a big scary pair of scissors.

She’s come, not so much for Sarah, but for the package Sarah is due to deliver any time now… the baby. The home becomes a place of terror (and the film’s title takes on a sinister double meaning) as this un-named madwoman rampages through the house trying to catch a petrified Sarah who, mopey or not, is not about to give up her bambino without one hell of a fight. That’s the maternal instinct right there, fighting for survival.

The cops come (all big, burly and extremely attractive), and a random criminal called Abdul, who all have to be dealt with by the mysterious crazy lady. The bodies pile up and the blood flows freely as Sarah’s baby, of whom we’re given distressing little 3-D snapshots from time to time, comes ever closer to being born.

Sarah, incidentally, if you like a little bit of showbiz gossip, is played by the younger sister of Vanessa Paradis, the French actress and one-time child pop star (Remember Joe Le Taxi?) who has two children by her ex-partner Johnny Depp. These are all very, very good-looking people we’re talking about here. Showbiz good-looking, I mean, not just regular good-looking. We peasants are not fit to grace their radars, even as temporary blips. Remember that, peasants. Lol. 

It’s a really good plot, the plot of INSIDE, well acted and everything, but the amount of gore in the film means that it’s just not for me, not my cup of tea. Each to their own, though. Someone else might love it, depending on their tolerance for blood and stabbings. Check it out, anyway, see what you think. Me, personally, I won’t be going anywhere near this one again. Did I mention it has way too much blood…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

 

BLOW. (2001) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

blow mirtha mugshot

BLOW. (2001) DIRECTED BY TED DEMME. BASED ON THE 1993 BOOK BY BRUCE PORTER: BLOW: HOW A SMALL-TOWN BOY MADE $100 MILLION WITH THE MEDELLIN COCAINE CARTEL AND LOST IT ALL.

STARRING JOHNNY DEPP, PENELOPE CRUZ, FRANKA POTENTE, ETHAN SUPLEE, PAUL REUBENS, JORDI MOLLA, CLIFF CURTIS, BOBCAT GOLDTHWAITE, LOLA GLAUDINI, RACHEL GRIFFITHS AND RAY LIOTTA.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This portrayal of drug-taking and drug-dealing is nearly as sexy and glamorous as that achieved by Brian De Palma’s SCARFACE (1983). The format and narrative voice-overs are reminiscent of GOODFELLAS, and that movie’s lead actor, Ray Liotta, is here in person, not as the criminal this time but as the criminal’s Dad.

Now Ray Liotta himself is playing the over-worked ’50s/60s Pops who’s trying- and failing- to inculcate a certain values system, his own, into his son, but his son doesn’t even want to know.

All the son sees is the lure and glamour of easy money, not caring a jot that when you live by the sword, you’re frequently called upon to die by it too. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? You’ll love this film, if you don’t already.

Johnny Depp plays real-life drug-dealer George Jung who, in the ’60s, grew up and moved from his home city of Boston, Massachusetts, to the beaches of California. Here he met and married his first beautiful wife Barbara and, together with his best mate from childhood, the rather fishily-nicknamed Tuna, became the go-to person on the beaches from whom to buy your pot. Marijuana. Mary-Jane. Weed. Grass. Whatever.

Greed seems to be George’s main problem. He goes into the weed business initially with a friend of Barbara’s called Derek Foreal, a fantastically camp, bitchy hairdresser who’s a hard-headed businessman underneath all the kitsch.

When George proves to have a really prodigious talent for selling drugs, however, the temptation to become the world’s premiere importer of Colombian cocaine is too hard to resist. He meets Pablo Escobar, the Cocaine King, and goes into business with him and everything, with an introduction from George’s mate Diego Delgado, with whom he’s done some time in prison.

Prison, by the way, seems to be just some kind of crime school for guys like George. He admits himself that he went into prison with a Diploma in weed and came out with a PHD in cocaine. So much for rehabilitation, anyway.

The Colombian drug business is a freakin’ terrifying one. Life is cheap in Colombia, we’re told, and we see a man being murdered literally the instant the tall, moustached and outwardly charming Pablo Escobar hoves into sight. Yes, I admit, I was a little attracted to him here…!

The scene where George meets Pablo and works out a system of drug deals with him is like the scene in SCARFACE where Tony Montana does the same with Bolivian cocaine kingpin Alejandro Sosa. In SCARFACE during this scene, F. Murray Abraham as Omar Suarez meets a horrible death at the hands of Sosa’s henchmen. You do not fuck with these guys. Ever.

Things get really sexy and glamorous when George meets Mirtha, played by the most beautiful actress in the world today, Penelope Cruz. She was unbelievably gorgeous with Tom Cruise in VANILLA SKY.

Here, she plays the stunning fiancée of one of the drug-dealers George does business with. If it weren’t for the fact that George enjoys the dubious protection of Pablo Escobar himself, this guy would have gutted George like a fish for stealing his ho.

George and Mirtha have a tempestuous relationship. Mirtha is a bit like Michelle Pfeiffer’s Elvira Hancock character in SCARFACE. Beautiful, stick-thin, addicted to drink and drugs, empty inside but desperately trying to fill that void with glamour, danger and endless excitement. They have a daughter together, Kristina Sunshine Jung, who’s the light of George’s life but, while he’s still dealing drugs, he’s only going to keep on letting her down.

When his friends Diego and Derek Foreal cut a separate drug deal together that leaves George with only the shaft, George decides to get out of the drugs business forever. Is it that simple? Can it be done? Or will the promise of just one more big deal lure him back in the game? Mirtha is not a cheap wife to keep, and she and Kristina are George’s responsibility.

When his millions of dollars accumulated from all the drug deals he’s made are literally stolen by the Panamanian government, George becomes desperate for cash. Should he pull off one last job? He owes Mirtha child support and alimony, and she’s making noises about keeping Kristina away from him unless he coughs up pronto. One more quick drug deal should do the trick. Shouldn’t it…?

Rachel Griffiths is great here as George’s awful Mum. She’s obsessed with money and the price of everything, and she’s mortified that her only son is a drug dealer for a living. ‘What are you looking at, Mrs. Gracie? Your son’s no prize!’

Ray Liotta as George’s Dad, however, loves his only son to bits and is prepared to maintain contact with him despite what George does for a living. The relationship between George and his Dad and between George and his daughter are the two bright spots in George’s life.

I always feel really, really sorry for George at the end of the film because it’s Johnny Depp in a padded-out shirt to give him a paunch, but I need to remind myself that George got himself into that pitiful position by selling drugs.

Drugs. The drugs that would have been ruining hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of peoples’ lives while George got richer and richer off the back of it. Everything that happened to him, he seems to have brought it on himself.

But oh my God, it’s a long-haired Johnny Depp in a padded-out shirt! Can’t I please just cut him a teensy-weensy break here…? Lol. It’s hard to feel contempt or disgust for anyone who’s played by the divine Johnny Depp.

The film has a fantastic ‘Seventies soundtrack. The songs they’ve chosen are perfect for montages, whether it be the taking drugs montages or the getting-rich-quick montages. While watching the film for the first time back in about 2003, I had a kind of personal epiphany during Manfred Mann’s ‘Blinded By The Light’ and decided to actively turn my life around after a bad break-up.

That’s a really clear example of a song’s power to change someone’s life for the better. Well, it was mostly for the better. I kissed an awful lotta frogs during this period but it eventually led me to something wonderful so I can’t complain.

God, why are films about drug-dealers always so goddamned sexy? They glamorise drug-taking and drug-dealing and make you envy the lifestyle, the houses, the cars, the private planes and the sunshine islands, the sexy consorts, the perks, the prizes, the rich pickings.

It’s all built on sand, though, and can collapse at any minute. It’s a house of sand and fog, lol. Please remember that when you sell your first bag of weed to a dopey stoned teenager. Now, preaching time is over. Watch this film. You’ll love it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

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https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

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