Retro Film Review: Blown Away (1994)

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1990s would remembered as the era of binary movie events in Hollywood - two moviesdealing with the same subject, or, to be precise, same "high concept". In Summer 1994, that "high concept" was "mad bomber action thriller". In few weeks, "thrillride of the summer" actionfest Speed was followed by another action thriller Blown Away, so disappointing that most of the people these days associate the title with the
1992 eponymous thriller in which Nicole Eggert did few nude scenes.

The movie begins in Northern Ireland, where Gaerity (played by Tommy Lee Jones), IRA terrorist with the great talent to make lethal explosive devices from almost any material, escapes from prison. He comes to Boston, where he accidentally notices Jimmy Dove (played by Jeff Bridges), dedicated bomb disposal expert within Boston police. Few people except Gaerity know about Dove's violent past, when he used to be IRA bomber before becoming sick with violence, betraying Gaerity and emigrating to America where he changed his name and started using bombing experience for good purposes. Gaerity holds Dove personally responsible for his captivity and begins the campaign of bombing terror, directed specifically at Dove's colleagues, friends and relatives. Dove, who is just going to retire and start family, now must confront the mad bomber.

While Speed doesn't even try to bother with plot and characters, using them only as an excuse for long and spectacular action scenes, Blown Away tries to be more conventional and add some back story toe the action. And that is the main reason why it is inferior to Speed. Badly written plot and badly written characters are sometimes worse than no plot and no characters at all. Screenplay by John Bateer and John Rice, barely touches the complicated issues of Northern Ireland, using the tragic conflict only as the cheap backstory for even cheaper drama. The plot is, of course, full of implausibilities. The main one is the fact that movie fails to explain how the single individual, no matter how brilliant, can produce thousands of deadly devices and hold entire city at bay. Those questions, same as in the case of Speed, could be forgotten while the action goes on, but the pauses between action scenes are filled with cliched and predictable situation that should provide some background to the characters. Because of them, movie seems a little bit too long and boring at times. The most annoying element of the film, however, is Tommy Lee Jones in the role of mad bomber. His acting is so over-the-top that potentially fascinating villain turns into pathetic caricature of himself. This role is in painful contrast with the strong performance given by that same actor in Fugitive. The film have few bright points, though. Some of the action scenes are fine, which should be credited to director Stephen Hopkins (Predator II, * Judgement Night*). And Forrest Whitaker really shines in minor role of Dove's colleague. But, all in all, Blown Away is a film that justifiably remained in the shadow of its more famous, yet hardly unforgettable competitor.

RATING: 4/10 (+)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.movies.reviews on May 9th 1999)

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