Blow Out Reviews
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
The movie is dark and the ending bleak, but it is worth watching.
Hitchcock meets Blow Up meets The Conversation
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.