If someone is familiar with the name George Jung, it is most likely due to the film Blow, starring Johnny Depp. Well, when that Ted Demme-directed title premiered, Jung was in prison and unable to attend. Now, thanks to Clint Choate’s docuseries Boston George: Famous Without The Fortune, the newly freed former drug trafficker can tell his story in his words, looking back at his whole life.
The first episode, Some Kind Of Happiness, sets the groundwork, giving a broader dissection of Jung’s life before diving deeper into his more infamous moments. For those unfamiliar with the man, Jung was born in Massachusetts, and after dropping out of college, he began smuggling the weed he’d buy in California back to his home state. Then, after a stint in prison, where his cellmate was Columbian, Jung started helping Pablo Escobar bring cocaine into the United States.
Of course, if that’s all there was to the man’s life, then there’d hardly be a reason for director Choate to dedicate five episodes to him. But no, that’s just the bare-bones basic needed for context to understand what the team behind Boston George: Famous Without The Fortune hopes to achieve as a whole.
“…Jung started helping Pablo Escobar bring cocaine into the United States.”
Each episode ranges in length from just over 30 minutes to around 45. All told, the runtime is roughly 3 hours. And that is a little too long. While it has some engaging moments, when all is said and done, episode four, Operation Blow, feels a bit unnecessary. Yes, it is interesting how much respect law enforcement officers have for Jung, despite his illegal actions. But elsewhere in the series (specifically episodes two and five) do a great job at highlighting this peculiar angle of the subject’s incarceration.
With that said, there is much to love about what Choate accomplishes with Boston George: Famous Without The Fortune. Jung is still as sharp-tongued as ever, pitching out sarcastic comments to his friends with the greatest of ease. The man’s meeting with a friend he hasn’t seen since 1974 is filled with caustic barbs, yet it is evident that he means them from a place of love; it is sort of like how you can make fun of your siblings, but God help anyone else who does. Furthermore, his sense of humor makes it relatively easy to empathize and even root for the man.
But what really strikes gold is how upfront Jung is about what drew him into a life of a modern-day pirate: the money and freedom it offered (well, freedom until being arrested, that is). The interviews with journalist/author Bruce Porter, and accomplice Waino “Tuna” Tuominen, among many others, are also quite revealing and engaging. Jung’s current partner, Ronda Spinello, helps keep him grounded, and their love is obvious from the jump. Johnny Depp also sits for an interview and goes into quite a bit of detail about his admiration for Jung. He also talks about how he tried to capture his cadence and movements and how that informed his performance. It’s all fascinating stuff.
While it is at least one episode too long, Boston George: Famous Without The Fortune is an absorbing look into George Jung’s wild, unbelievable, kinda cool life. The man himself comes off as unapologetic and energized as ever. The pacing for most episodes is quite good, with the final ten or so minutes being truly something special. If you love Blow, history, or just a crazy true-life story, then Choate’s first outing as a filmmaker is a must-see.
"…there is much to love about what Choate accomplishes..."