Movie Name: Blow Out
Studio: Filmways Pictures
Release Date(s): July 24, 1981
MPAA Rating: R
Sound man Jack Terry (John Travolta) witnesses a wreck which kills an up-and-coming governor. Saving a prostitute named Sally (Nancy Allen), Jack realizes from his recording that the wreck wasn’t an accident but a murder. Jack teams with Nancy to try to prove the accident is a murder and makes himself and everyone involved the target of the real killer (John Lithgow). The truth could set them free, but it could also kill them.
Written and directed by Brian De Palma, Blow Out is a crime thriller. The movie was released to mixed to positive reviews but gained a cult following over the years. Criterion released a remastered version of the film which included De Palma’s first film Murder a la Mod (1968) which can be seen featured in a scene in Blow Out (Criterion #562).
Brian De Palma is a director that when he is great is great, but if he’s bad he’s bad…and he also (like other directors) struggles on ending movies. Blow Out is a great example of De Palma’s good and bad.
The story for Blow Out feels very familiar. It has the same paranoia and ideas of The Conversation, but not the fun nuances. It also has a similar feel to De Palma’s Dressed to Kill with the team-up factor and the fact that a lot of cast of Dressed to Kill show up here. The problem with Blow Out is the whole last act with the jeep chase and the ending murder…it just isn’t up to the level of the movie that leads up to it and becomes laughable.
The second problem of Blow Out is the cast. While Lithgow is good as the killer, and Dennis Franz plays the slimy con man decently, the leads are the real issue. Travolta’s broody Jack Terry has script issues mostly with chunky dialogue and a poor delivery by Travolta, but Nancy Allen once again is the weak point in the film. Allen (who was married to De Palma at the time) just feels wooden as Sally…a similar problem she had in Dressed to Kill.
The movie looks good. The Philadelphia setting is interesting and different. It also does a lot of high concept ideas with sound and video. These are the good aspects of the movie that does make it a positive viewing…combined with De Palma’s stylized shooting.
That’s part of the tragedy for me. I want to like Blow Out, but its acting and unbalanced plot make the movie laughable when it needs to be tense and thrilling. Blow Out is a frustrating movie as a result. For a thriller, it isn’t that bad due to the serial killer aspect which almost turns it into a strange giallo and for Fans of De Palma, it is a must…watch Blow Out, but I maintain a love-hate relationship with the film.