Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Blow Out (1981)


I’ve been trying to catch up on the filmography of Brian De Palma. The guy knows how to craft a great thriller, and his visual style is always enjoyable. One movie I always hear about is this flick from 1981 featuring John Travolta. As I’m looking over the cast list I wonder if he pitched this right after he did Carrie. But no he did a few movies in between. The concept sounded intriguing so I was looking forward to this one.


Jack (John Travolta) is a sound designer for low budget horror flicks. One night he is out capturing some sounds for his latest project when he witnesses a car accident. He rushes over to help and saves a young woman, Sally (Nancy Allen) from drowning in the submerged car. But a powerful senator dies.  Jack is questioned and some mysterious folks ask him to forget the whole incident and Sally.

But Jack feels that something is wrong. He goes over his recording and starts to piece together the sounds. It becomes more and more apparent that what appeared to be a simple tire Blow Out may have been caused by a gunshot. As he delves deeper into the investigation a mysterious man, Burke (John Lithgow) begins his own operation, and he’s starting to see Jack and Sally as real problems. Is Jack just paranoid or is there a conspiracy going on that may end up with him as the victim of the next accident?

Good Points:
  • An interesting set up for a solid thrill maker
  • Travolta and Allen have great chemistry
  • Some excellently crafted scenes and build-ups

Bad Points:
  • Travolta gets a little too Saturday Night Fever at times
  • Once you see Lithgow in the film, you pretty much know how his character will play out
  • The ending is a throwback to 1970s thrillers and doesn’t quite feel right


This is a movie that is well crafted and maybe if I was in a different mood I would have enjoyed it a bit more. I really like the idea of a sound man capturing this key moment in an accident and realizing it might be murder. But I think the similar concept in The Conversation handled the whole thing a bit better. Travolta’s performance is a bit uneven at times, but his chemistry with Allen is what makes it all work. I’m not a huge fan of the ending, but the ride to get to it was fun enough. Worth checking out if you are in the mood for a 70s style thriller with a dash of DePalma’s style.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 4
Acting: 4
Script: 4
Music: 4
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 3
Total:  4

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  1. I liked this movie back when it came out, but I haven’t been motivated to watch it since then. It might well have resonated more at a time when Chappaquiddick, Watergate, and the ‘60s assassinations were still recent memories – the elements of those events in this movie were recognized by viewers then in a more direct way than today. I’d have to watch it again to see if it still holds up well.

    1. It has a lot of good elements to it. I just don't know if the ending feels earned. Almost like they slapped on the ending because they wanted it to end that way but not that the story flowed that way.

      Or I just wasn't in the mood for that type of ending. Very possible as well.

  2. Yes, I saw this not too long ago just to see how I would like it upon a re-watch and it still held up pretty well. It might have been better the second time around or as you said, I was in the mood as I didn't care for it that much initially. It also reminds me of the movie Blow-Up in the solving of a crime aspect.

    1. I would always confuse those two films. As I was watching I was waiting for them to examine a photo and blow it up... but wrong movie. :)

  3. This might be my fave De Palma film. It is one of those ones that improves with subsequent viewings when you see the layers that exist beyond the thriller conventions. Maybe THE CONVERSATION is a better crafted film but whereas it is cerebral in nature, De Palma delivers the goods when it comes to emotional impact - esp. with the last scene that always gets me every time. What a way to end a film!

    1. Yeah a lot of people love this one. I think my expectations were very high when I watched it, and that is why it ended up disappointing at the time. I'm willing to give it another chance. De Palma does so many great visual things in his films, they are always worth revisiting.