Apr 11, 2001 at 12:00 am

Drug trafficking’s modern American founding father, George Jung (Johnny Depp), has led a life of crime that has grown into the thorny sins of (and against) the fathers. Director Ted Demme’s Jung biopic, Blow, boils down Bruce Porter’s exhaustively detailed chronicle of Jung’s life and high times — Blow: How a Small-Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellín Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All — to a romanticized, tragic family drama of two fathers (George and his father, Fred) dressed as a crime tale of two illicit pharmaceuticals (marijuana and cocaine).

Blow skims the unattractive details from the true stories of its heroes, the Jungs, father and son. Fred’s family-threatening gambling addiction is left out. George seems to just surf on (instead of making) waves in the drug revolution that crested around the Summer of Love in the late ’60’s and ebbed leaving him betrayed, high and dry, his 2-year-old daughter in police custody, at the end of the disco age of the late ’70’s.

But the buzz is that Blow is the Boogie Nights (1997) of the underground narcotics industry. It isn’t. Demme lacks the sense of irony and visual flair of Paul Thomas Anderson’s elegy to the porn biz of the ’70s.

Still, I left the theater wearing the sorrowful residue of a modern tragedy as a photograph of the real George Jacob Jung’s ruined face stared after me. Jung never sought the truths his father offered him, but they struck him in the face, not blinding him like narcotic snow, but opening his eyes only after the penitentiary’s door had slammed shut behind him. Now he sits alone, exiled like Oedipus, but behind bars and barbed wire — without his cherished daughter.

Though the sins of the fathers may not be visited upon children, the children may not visit at all and that may be the worst blow.

Blow director Ted Demme speaks in Reckless Eyeballing, click here to read.

E-mail James Keith La Croix at [email protected].