An Irish bomber escapes from prison and targets a member of the Boston bomb squad.
"According to the report, the guy can build bombs out of Bisquick."
It seems like the early part of the 90s was chockfull of serial killers and mad bomber movies. Often these two genres collided, creating explosively mixed results. 1994 alone saw two such genre convergences in the form of 'Speed' and 'Blown Away.' Where 'Speed' played off a hook about a commuter bus that must stay above 50mph or blow up, 'Blown Away' is a much more straight forward serial killer revenge thriller. Where Dennis Hopper is demanding a big payday from the city, Tommy Lee Jones is out for revenge against Jeff Bridges and is more than willing to kill anyone and everyone associated with him. Where 'Speed' is fun and creative with it's tense setups, 'Blown Away' relies on old school red herrings and Rube Goldberg mechanics to make sure each explosion is more thrilling than the one that came before.
In a secluded Irish prison rests IRA bomber Ryan Gaerity (Tommy Lee Jones) who has been rotting in prison for over 25 years. Rather than sitting on his hands, he's stayed busy plotting his escape. After forging a powerful explosive out of common ingredients, Gaerity escapes into a surging storm. Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic, Jimmy Dove (Jeff Bridges) does what he does best - diffuse bombs for the Boston police department. As a natural at the job he seems to be able to deactivate any device that's put in front of him. While he may be good at what he does, he hates it. He's also madly in love with a single mom Kate (Suzy Amis) and daughter Lizzy (Stephi Lineburg). After marrying Kate, he retires from active service and takes a teaching position. This would be great, only Ryan Gaerity has other plans.
As it happens, Jimmy is more than what he seems to his coworkers and family, his real name is Liam McGivney, he wasn't born in Boston, and was in fact Gaerity's protege in the IRA. 25 years ago Liam attempted to stop one of Gaerty's bombs that was set to go off in a crowded market square. Gaerity got caught and Liam was able to flee to the United States, set up a new identity for himself and live with his uncle Max (Lloyd Bridges). Now Gaerity is in town and hell bent on revenge. Only he doesn't want to simply kill Liam, he want's to destroy everything he knows and loves in a gigantic ball of fire. Liam must figure out a way to thwart Gaerity's explosive plans while avoiding the suspicions of his partner Anthony (Forest Whitaker).
'Blown Away' is one of those movies that is an unfortunate victim of timing. By the time it was released, 'Speed' was already dominating movie screens across the country, so the idea of another movie about a "mad bomber" wasn't on audience's minds. On top of its release date issues, 'Blown Away' has the look and feel of another IRA madman out for revenge film - 1992's 'Patriot Games.' In fact 'Blown Away' is so similar to 'Patriot Games' that it even goes so far as to crib the same opening credits design, similar Irish-themed music, and even Alan Silvestri's score feels like it's cribbing movement's from James Horner's compositions. Thankfully for 'Blown Away,' it still manages to stand on it's own two legs in spite of these similarities.
From a script by Joe Batter and John Rice under the direction of Stephen Hopkins, 'Blown Away' skews much closer to being a serial killer thriller than any kind of political thriller or action film. There is a killer on the loose, he has a particular motive, and a unique way of killing people. Rather than skinning people like Buffalo Bill or using the seven deadly sins, Gaerity uses intricately constructed explosive devices that are designed to cause massive amounts of damage. In fact, most of the fun of this film comes from these setups and watching Jeff Bridges struggle to figure out how to disarm them. His character may have been trained by Gaerity, but that doesn't mean he knows all of the man's tricks. The bombs are the real strength of the film as each setup is more elaborate than the last, to the point that the big grand finale juxtaposed against a performance of the William Tell Overture is a gigantic fireball of fun and suspense.
Performances all around are pretty good, not amazing but good enough to get the job done. Jeff is committed to his part as to be expected. Forest Whitaker plays the suspecting junior detective role well and offers a nice counterbalance to Jeff's stern and determined Jimmy/Liam. Tommy Lee Jones is basically playing a version of his character from 'Under Siege' but with a really thick and very troublesome Irish accent. While it's fun watching Jones camp things up and he does play evil well enough - that accent can be so forced in some scenes that it's just distracting and oftentimes hilarious. Jeff tries an accent here and there with that particularly unique Boston lilt, but most of the time he doesn't and lets that aspect of his character slide. Suzy Amis does well enough as the concerned single mom, but she's not given a whole lot to do other than to provide Tommy Lee Jones's character with another target.
20 years later and 'Blown Away' is still a good piece of fun. Parts of it haven't aged too well - an early scene involves a bomb set to go off when the hard drive fills up as a woman types out the same message over and over again. Today, that same bomb would have taken years to go off - but it's still a pretty decent suspense setup offering an alternate take to the usual ticking timer. Even with small character gripes, this movie proves to be two solid hours of entertainment.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino brings 'Blown Away' to Blu-ray pressed on a Region A locked BD25 disc. Housed in a standard case, the disc opens directly to the main menu.
Even with 20 years on the film, 'Blown Away' looks practically ageless in this 2.35:1 1080p transfer. With a nice layer of preserved film grain, detail is absolutely fantastic for this film. Close ups and mediums look the best while wide shots look a bit softer - although they're still very impressive. Colors are equally impressive allowing for plenty of pop, presence and feel natural. Likewise flesh tones look normal and healthy. The film's opening in the Irish prison appears to have some slight color timing differences - but I suspect that is part of the elements and not some kind of Director tinkering. Thankfully it only lasts for the opening two or three minutes and then once the movie shifts to Boston, everything looks normal. Black levels and shadows look nicely balanced, but not entirely impressive - the image can feel flat during darker scenes. All around this is a very pleasing transfer for a catalogue release of this vintage.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track is incredibly effective and powerful for 'Blown Away.' Considering it's an early 90s action movie made around the time that digital surround sound was the next big thing, "bombastic" is a very apt way to describe this track. The track for the most part keeps balanced to the mid ranges, but segments of Silvestri's score kick the lower registers up very nicely and creates a great sense of foreboding. Levels are nicely balanced, even during the big action beats you shouldn't have to ride your volume button and during quieter moments there are plenty of atmospheric sounds and background noises to keep the track lively and working the surrounds in subtle ways. Imaging also has some great presence, in particular during the big climatic explosion sequence and the chase finale. It's a lot of auditory fun.
Audio Commentary: Stephen Hopkins flies solo with this entertaining and informative track.
The Making Of Blown Away: A Day In The Life Of The Bomb Squad: (SD 20:47) Narrated/hosted by Lloyd Bridges who looks like his character from 'Airplane!,' it's a dated "making of feature." It's fun because it looks like a lot of the stuff The History Channel puts out today.
Take Me Home Music Video: (SD 4:04) Gotta love the late great Joe Cocker.
Original Theatrical Trailer: (HD 1:35)
'Blown Away' on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber's Studio Classic's line proved to be a great way to dip back into some of my childhood nostalgia. Growing up we had this one on VHS and I watched it pretty often, not necessarily because it was the best movie ever but because the setups for the bombs were so intricate and fun to see executed. It's great to see this movie hold up so well. All around 'Blown Away' is a fun movie that is bolstered in HD with outstanding A/V quality and a solid set of informative extras. Easily highly recommended for any 90s action movie addict.