Blow Out - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Blow Out Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ March 24, 2012
DePalma's most well executed tribute to the master of suspense (Alfred Hitchcock), this film features outstanding set pieces, standout performances from Lithgow, Travolta and Franz and maybe the best use of sound design to build tension.
Super Reviewer
½ August 9, 2013
A potent thriller from DePalma that borrows from other aspects of cinema to create a visceral experience. Well shot, well acted, and original, 'Blow Out' can find comfort in many film buff's libraries.
Super Reviewer
½ August 4, 2012
Jack Terry: So you got your choice. You can be crazy or dead. 

"Murder has a sound all of its own!"

Classic Brian De Palma and classic John Travolta. Blow Out is up there with some of De Palma's best works, and is only held back by an annoying performance from Nancy Allen. The movie isn't quite as good as Dressed to Kill of Scarface, but just a notch below with movies like Carrie and Carlito's Way. 

Jack Terry is out collecting sound for a new horror movie that he is working on. He's a sound man and the director isn't happy with the same old wind sound, so he's out to get a new wind sound. When he's out, he witnesses a car accident that ends up in a river. He jumps in and saves a girl, but another passenger dies. That passenger ends up being a governor and suspected running candidate for the presidency. Everyone is saying it's an accident, but Jack thinks it's more because he swears he heard a gunshot before the blow out. And he has it on tape.

Blow Out is an extremely cool and entertaining piece of filmmaking from De Palma. It also feels like more restrained work from him. It isn't a movie that is obsessed with sex and violence(although there are elements of both). He lets the suspense and tension build to a windup. You still won't have trouble noticing all the elements that make De Palma so easy to spot. If only he didn't like Nancy Allen so much. 

There's a lot to like about the movie, but I especially loved the usage of the scream scenes from the movie that is getting made within Blow Out. There's a lot of foreshadowing with the movie being made and works extremely well. Also, John Travolta is really, really good here. It's up there with his best stuff like Pulp Fiction. There's never a moment in his performance where he seemed fake or like all this wasn't really happening to him. He makes for an incredible hero and really keeps the tension building right along with De Palma's direction. 

Blow Out is another must see film from De Palma. The guy made his share of bad movies for sure, but when he is on his game, he's fucking amazing. I know he is normally a director that you either love or hate, but with this one, I can see even his biggest haters enjoying it. It's just like Lynch's Blue Velvet with me. I despise Lynch, but I really like Blue Velvet. So even if you don't like De Palma, still give this one a look. It may surprise you.
Super Reviewer
½ August 16, 2006
Mixing together Antonioni's Blow-Up and Coppola's The Converation with a bit of (restrained) Argento-esque giallo, Blow Out is Brian De Palma's moody suspenseful political thriller about an average guy caught up in a web of danger following the aftermath of a car crash.

Jack Terry is a soundman who works for low-budget slasher/nudie films. one night, as he is out recording sounds for the latest film he's working on, he records a car crah that turns out to be a murder. Thigns get complicated since the victim happens to be a presidential candidate and the lady that was with him (who Jack saves) was there for scandalous reasons. In the aftermath, Jack struggles to bring the truth to light as other seems bound and determined to cover up the situation and eliminate all people and evidence that might bring the unsavoroy elements to light.

This is a tight, moody, and well made thriller. There's lots of twists and turns, but it's pretty easy to follow. Besides taking influence from Nixonian-era America and the Ted Kennedy car crash incident, this film is also an absorbing look at a technical side of film art that doesn't get enough credit (sound engineering).

Being a De Palma film, there's some of his trademark style and cinematographic hallmarks present, but the film is more restrained than it could have been..and I liked that. It's a good mix of art and exploitation, and it looks and sounds fantastic. Oh yeah, and the performances are great too. Travolta does a wonderful job as the obsessed and troubled Jack, and Nancy Allen is terrific as Sally, the woman Jack saves from the crash. Her scene in the hospital when she's woozy and confused is superb and just a delight to watch. The real force to be reckoned with here though has to be John Lithgow as the "fixer" type of character. Think of Anton Chigurh to a degree, though dialed down just a tad. It's a creepy and nuanced performance, even if there's not much dept hto the character.

This is one of De Palma's stand out films, even if it's not the most original. It's entertaining, well made, and even give you some food for thought. In the end, that's hardly something to complain about, even if the script could have been touched up in places.
Super Reviewer
October 30, 2011
Whatever happened to one of the most interesting efants terribles of the American Nouvelle Vague? Having had the chance of watching this and "Carrie" on the big screen, one can marvel at his impressive domain over framing, colour, sound and movement to create twisted cinematographic symphonies. While DePalma might have sold his art to the industry, at least he found a worthy successor in the form of Quentin Tarantino.
Super Reviewer
½ January 15, 2011
Blow Out is a pretty decent thriller from the early 80's staring John Travolta. Travolta plays a movie sound effects technician who accidentally records the assassination of a governor, and has to expose the truth while protecting himself and another witness from the people who don't want the conspiracy uncovered.

The best parts of the movie were some pretty cool camera angles, a nice sense of tension - courtesy of writer and director Brian De Palma, and a chilling performance from John Lithgow as a disturbed killer. If you were surprised by his murderous turn as a serial killer on the TV show Dexter a few years ago, this movie will show you that he's been good at playing that kind of a character for quite a while.

Fans of De Palma, conspiracy films, or John Travolta would be doing themselves a favor by checking this out.
Super Reviewer
September 12, 2011
Jack Terry is a movie soundman in Philadelphia out recording sounds one night when he witnesses a car crash into a creek. He jumps in and pulls out a young woman, but the driver of the car - a powerful senator - drowns. Jack is approached by the authorities to keep quiet, but when he listens to his tape he is convinced the crash was not an accident but an assassination. Can he unravel the mystery before the killer comes calling on him? One of the most brilliant and overlooked political thrillers ever made, this is a fabulous movie featuring a dynamic career-best performance by John Travolta who sadly almost disappeared into obscurity afterwards until Pulp Fiction thirteen years later. It's very hard to play a complex lead in a densely-plotted thriller and yet somehow he manages to be exciting, tender, funny and guilt-ridden, all the while holding the story-threads together. Allen is fun as the dopey call-girl, Franz hits a new high in his sleazebag roles for DePalma (he doesn't even stop talking when he goes to the bathroom), and Lithgow is truly chilling as the Gordon Liddy-styled hard-as-nails killer with the coolest garrotte in cinema. The problem I have with most political thrillers is that they're all talk and no action (The Parallax View, The China Syndrome) - they may be credible but they're dull; Blow Out gets its balance of plot-twists, social commentary and hair-raising moments exactly right. It contains everything you could want to know about Nixon-era political tricks (wire-taps, surveillance, police coverups, etc), but it also has some seriously scary stalking scenes, a giddy chase through a Liberty Day parade and an amusing subplot about dubbing a horror flick. It combines DePalma's love of style and technique (split-screen, montages, complex shots, slow-motion) with his love of film engineering and technology, as Jack makes an animated film of the crash from newspaper stills and dubs his soundtrack onto them using lovely old moviolas and analogue tape machines. There's an extraordinary shot at one point when Jack finds all his tapes have been erased and the camera spins slowly around his studio, literally dizzying us with the bewildering conspiracy surrounding him. Vilmos Zsigmond's photography is stunning throughout and Pino Donaggio's lush score is haunting and poignant. The one criticism that could possibly be levelled against this movie is that it cribs from many sources, notably Rashomon, Vertigo, and Blowup (explicit in the title), and the premise is a variation on the infamous 1969 Chappaquiddick incident (senator Ted Kennedy crashed his car into a sea-channel and escaped but his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned). But DePalma's script is as perfectly manicured as his visuals, and has lots of good ideas of its own; Lithgow's trick of murdering two other women prior to Allen to make her death look like the work of a serial killer is a brilliant twist, and one that's been used in many subsequent thrillers. And the usual protest against DePalma's work - that he has no interest in character and directs clinically - is usually unjustified, but particularly so here - Jack is a nice guy with a guilty conscience and Travolta imbues him with energy, warmth, humor and tragic pathos. This movie is everything a good thriller should be and, along with William Richert's equally low-profile Winter Kills, is the touchstone American political conspiracy movie.
Super Reviewer
½ July 24, 2011
I don't like Brian De Palma. What frustrates me about his work is that he is very clearly a craftsman, but his pictures are all so unruly; they always seem to lack a narrative focus that undermines his stylish, directorial flourishes. When you are making a thriller it's important to have a steady hand over the films structure, making it feel engaging without being contrived- something de Palma has trouble doing. With that said, "Blow Out" is probably his best work since it ends up being the most cohesive. His vision for the film comes through much clearer than his other pictures. While I can't consider this anything too original since it's essentially a hodge-podge of various filmic tropes and endless homages to Alfred Hitchcock, "Blow Out" is occasionally intriguing. I appreciate the fact that everything you are seeing on screen is being called into question due to the sneaky opening sequence. John Travolta's performance is just too 'everyman' to be compelling (which he rarely ever is) and Nancy Allen is as annoying as ever (de Palma's obsession with her is so odd). What ultimately makes "Blow Out" worth seeing is the cinematography by the great Vilmos Zsigmond (the shot composition is extraordinary at times) and the use of sound in both the actual film and it's narrative is mesmerizing. If you like Brian De Palma, and many of you do, this will be much more rewarding, but for the casual viewer it's a pretty harmless diversion.

On a side note, many compare "Blow Out" to Frances Ford Coppola's "The Conversation." I think the comparison is unavoidable but Coppola's film is clearly superior because he has a much steadier hand over the world he creates. Coppola knows when and where to properly place events and when story and performance trump flashy camera work.
Super Reviewer
December 8, 2006
Jack Terry: Jesus, that's terrible.
Mixer: That's a terrible scream. Jack, what cat did you have to strangle to get that?
Jack Terry: The one you hired. That's her scream.
Mixer: You mean you didn't dub that?
Super Reviewer
March 30, 2010
Not only is this my absolute favorite Brian De Palma movie, it's just one of my favorite movies period. It has essentially everything you could want or need in a suspense/thriller. The premise is really fun to pick apart and it has a limitless re-watchable factor to it. I think it's a real departure from the Hitchcock style De Palma got labeled as possessing. I love how they integrate the political scandal on top of the murder; it makes the plot even more unique and the right kind of DePalma bizarre that I love. It is by far one of the best shot movies of the time and I would say it's the culmination of every neat little trick you can accomplish in film. All of the signature De Palma elements are present: Split-Screen, Perspective Shots and some of the best looking Dolly Shots he's ever done. I just love the way this movie feels, it's entertaining and smart; the best of both worlds.
The way the plot moves along and the world that we are exposed to is done is such a great way. It's hard to think of a more well-paced thriller. Maybe it's the fact that the concept is such a goldmine of opportunity; the sound clip becomes so addictive and I feel like it's just as effective every time I watch it. It sort've does what The Conversation did, making you so wrapped up and invested that you can't turn away.
I would definitely say that it is my favorite performance by John Travolta, period. He is simply amazing, just a really great choice for a protagonist because he gets more moody and on edge as the film progresses, much like the viewer. When you factor in that he was just coming off of happy-go-lucky projects like Grease and Saturday Night Fever, this is quite the turn around. I also think it's one of Nancy Allen's best roles next to Dressed To Kill, but then again she's never bad. You've also got the very zany and menacing John Lithgow lurking around every corner. All these characters are pretty realistic for a genre film; never do they step out of reality.
I think that this is probably one of the most underappreciated movies, I can't believe it continues to go unnoticed and thrown in a junk drawer as one of DePalma's lesser works and the movie that John Travolta did before Staying Alive. You'll never find movies like this being made anymore, it has to be one of the most innovative thriller genre films out there. It's kind of the reason I consider Brian De Palma to be a genius and the true heir to the Hitchcock throne. In fact, this one kind've set the bar for modern thrillers.
Super Reviewer
½ August 14, 2010
and Travolta's best performance
Super Reviewer
January 7, 2010
Fantastic thriller from one of the masters.
Super Reviewer
½ March 12, 2009
I just rewatched this, having not seen it in YEARS. I remember seeing it as a kid and being completely enthralled by it.

Rewatching it as an adult I found it to be painfully dated and simply "ok".

I realized that I think the reason why it blew me away (no pun intended) as a kid, was because it was probably the first time that I experienced a "not so happy ending" for one of the lead characters of the film. I device which to this day still impresses me if done properly.
Super Reviewer
½ January 16, 2009
A film starring a young John Travolta as a sound engineer who thinks he can solve a mystery by listening to a sound bite he taped and synchronizing it to a film that "happened" to be made of an accident.

The movie is dark and the ending bleak, but it is worth watching.
Super Reviewer
May 12, 2007
A mixture between Coppola's The conversation and Antonioni's Blow up, Brian De Palma weaves a compelling thriller, with a surprisingly good performance by a young John Travolta. Pino Donaggio's score and De Palma's stylish camera work really make the film a worthy experience. devastating ending, shocking and full of dark humour.
Super Reviewer
½ May 5, 2007
DePalma's masterpiece

Hitchcock meets Blow Up meets The Conversation
Super Reviewer
December 7, 2007
A fantastic but flawed thriller combining elements of Antonioni's "Blow Up" and Coppola's "The Conversation". The main weakness here is Nancy Allen. Never the greatest actress, her likeability carried her through the role of the plucky hooker in "Dressed to Kill" with reasonable success; in "Blow Out", as a sweet and ditzy make-up artist, she's just plain bad, although, to be fair, she does improve as the movie progresses. The bleak ending, though nicely ironic, offers ample evidence of De Palma's cruel streak and his contempt for audience expectations. Shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, the film looks great, and the crucial scene where Travolta makes his sound recording of the accident, featuring some lovely deep focus 'scope shots with super-size animals in the foreground, is a classic.
Super Reviewer
August 19, 2007
As much as I hate to give up on a film before I finish it, Blow Out was so utterly uninvolving that I shut it off after an hour. If a movie hasn't hooked me after that long, then I am pretty sure it never will.

Travolta's good and all, but his character is completely boring - a cipher, a mere placeholder. The only important aspect of him is that he's a sound engineer because that propels the plot forward. Nancy Allen is repugnant. Try listening to her talk for longer than two minutes. None of the other characters are at all interesting.

Blow Out did have some good ideas, but something just didn't stick with me, I guess. Don't take my word for this one; give it your own viewing. You might get something more of it.
Super Reviewer
½ August 4, 2007
Fascinating concept to have a soundman solve a murder using advanced techniques.
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