George Jung’s parents are struggling to make ends meet. His father is fighting to keep his business afloat and his mother constantly complains that they don’t have enough money. George’s father Fred (Ray Liotta) tells his son that money isn’t real and that happiness is more important but George decides at an early age that he is not going to spend his life struggling for money. George moves to California with his friend Tuna and after being introduced to Derek Foreal (Paul Reubens) he starts selling cannabis on the beaches of California. The money starts rolling in but George has big plans and soon he is transporting shipments across America to the East Coast…
This film is based on the true story of George Jung one of the biggest drug smugglers of cocaine into the United States. The film spans his life; his childhood, the drug smuggling, the desire for money, the double crossing, the parties and lifestyle. While the film is never engrossing there is plenty of material to keep the audience interested.
The story is told in a humorous entertaining way and Jung is put forward as a likeable flamboyant character. The music, costumes, wigs and makeup add to the glamour. But by doing this the film avoids the seediness and grittiness of the subject matter. In the end Jung is put forward as a character that we should feel sorry for but it is hard to be sympathetic to a character that brought so much misery and havoc.
The film is more about characters than story. Johnny Depp is excellent in the role of Jung and in spite of some dodgy makeup towards the end he does well in portraying Jung from youth to old age. Penelope Cruz plays Mirtha (George’s wife) and she excellently portrays a character transformation as Mirtha goes from exotic beauty to miserable drug addict. There was good support from Ray Liotta as George’s father Fred, Paul Reubens as Derek Foreal the drugs middleman and Jordi Molla as fellow drug trafficker.
Lasting thoughts: Don’t mistake money for happiness. “Money isn’t real”