Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blown Away (1994)

Half-Patriot Games, half-Speed, this handsome, but flat thriller involves two Irish ex-pats, one a bomb squad detective, the other a mad bomber, in a battle of wits in Boston. Jeff Bridges is the hotshot cop, the kind who rides a motorcycle and introduces himself to a potential bomb victim as "Dove...Jimmy Dove." He has decided to settle down and retire when a face from his past, Tommy Lee Jones' Ryan Gaerity, begins to blow up his colleagues in meticulously planned, diversionary bomb scares. Once he knows that Gaerity has specifically targeted him, he becomes obsessed with protecting his father, his bomb squad, his new bride, and her precocious little daughter.

You might be thinking this movie is, basically, an extended showdown between the two macho heavyweights, Bridges and Jones; unfortunately it's not. Much of the movie shows Dove defusing various bombs and traps left for him in advance by Gaerity, sometimes with some sort of note or visual accompaniment attached. They seem to have gone the Heat route, and treated each character as if they inhabited their own story, which would be great if the final overlap was appropriately satisfying; unfortunately it's not (unless you like goofy mid-90's man-wrasslin' scenes). But while Jones' story rides, primarily, on Jones eternal watchability (witnessing his ex-convict character discover the joys of hyper-Irish U2 is a true delight), Bridges is supported by a stellar supporting cast, including Forest Whitaker and Ruben Santiago-Hudson, as fellow bomb defusers, and real-life pop Lloyd Bridges in a phenomenal turn as his old man. A huge detriment to the film is the focus on Bridge's attempt at domestication with his new wife, Suzy Amis. The scenario is so contrived and cliched, with terrible, momentum-breaking dialogue ("Thinking about checking out?") that Bridges ends up being left in the cold, without a consistent character to hold on to; is he a tortured, redemptive warrior, or a battle-weary soldier looking to settle down (it is easier to dismiss Amis' bland, nonexistent performance as an indication of a decided lack of talent)? The bomb scare stuff is tense and fun, but the film continually takes time to focus on Bridges and Amis' home life, deflating any chance this film had of achieving a pace like, say, Speed. The dialogue is serviceable, and the Boston setting is used moderately well, but the main draw here are director Stephen Hopkins long, intricate bomb scares that are a joy to watch snowball and develop.

Slightly Recommended for fans of the cast and scenes where someone looks at a big bomb with a lot of wires and is determined to defuse it (i.e. The Hurt Locker, Lethal Weapon 3, etc.). Stephen Hopkins has done some terrific movies (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Judgment Night) and some alright ones (Predator 2, Lost in Space). This is one of the latter.

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