Directed by Ted Demme. Starring Johnny Depp, Ray Liotta, Franka Potente, Rachel Griffiths, Jordi Molla and Penelope Cruz.

Based on real life events, 'Blow' charts the spectacular rise and fall of small town guy, George Jung (Depp), who wound up as the primary American connection for the Colombian cocaine industry back in the 1970s.

The film is a depiction of the fulfilment and the consequences of an alternative American dream. The screenplay, written by David McKenna and Nick Cassavetes, resolutely refuses to judge its criminal characters, being more concerned with giving a mention to all of the main players in Jung's eventful life.

The multitude of personalities is drawn impressively well, thanks mainly to good editing and great acting. Depp, always watchable, manages to age relatively convincingly, assisted by creativity in the make-up and wigs department. The casting of the movie is interesting throughout, especially with regard to the three female protagonists. Each actress is afforded the opportunity to play a nationality other than her own and a character quite different to her previous roles.

'Blow' pays great attention to period detail in its recreation of the era with much being made of the headier elements of the 1970s. The hero's transition from recreational pot smoker to major drug smuggler is conveyed as a rapid development, based on a series of logical choices made by an opportunistic guy desperate to avoid the less remarkable fate of his father.

The seedier and sometimes brutally violent elements of the drug trade are dealt with in relatively elliptical fashion, with the odd graphic episode rendered all the more effective by being in sharp contrast to overall mood of the film.

For all its use of neat devices, however, 'Blow' is eventually undermined by being overly long. After shifting thematic priorities from the allure of the high life to the fall-out of Jung's actions, the protagonist's relationship with his young daughter is foregrounded. Unfortunately, what could have been quite a moving change of gear is let down by flat sentimentality. This is all the more disappointing as Jung's relationship with his own father (Liotta) is handled with considerable skill.

Nevertheless, despite a certain weakness towards the conclusion, this is, for the most part, an engaging tale of one man's personal ambition and how it led to the mass consumption of cocaine in American society.

Siobhán Mannion