Monday, August 30, 2004

Notes on Blow Out 

This movie is the exact opposite of The Quiet American: It starts out really good, and winds up being awful by the end.

It's kind of a weird concept: John Travolta accidentally records the sounds of a presidential candidate's car going off a bridge. Strange as it may seem, this sound recording is the evidence that the tire was shot, and not simply a freak blowout. When the car goes over, John Travolta dives in and pulls a girl from the sinking vehicle, saving her life. Obviously, their situation puts them both in danger. Surprisingly, this much works.

So, Brian De Palma directed this movie, and he's a really talented director who seems to enjoy making crappy films. The movie has an interesting visual style that is fun to watch; I'm thinking specifically of the opening sequence from the point of view of the serial killer, and the montage sequence of John Travolta getting sounds for the movie he's working on (There are a couple of other scenes that were well-handled, but you probably wouldn't want me to tell you). De Palma treated this movie like a serious assignment, and even though it wasn't, the movie is better for it.

The problems start coming in, though. Nancy Allen's character, the girl who was having an affair with the politician, is unbelievably ditzy. It just wouldn't be acceptable to make a female character this ditzy today. I didn't know it was still acceptable in 1981, but it happened. It gets annoying.

Despite the interesting initial setup, the movie doesn't end up deliving on any conspiracies or anything like that. There's a mysterious character with entirely unexplained motivations who performed the assassination, and he continues to be the bad guy for the rest of the movie, as he attempts to clean up loose ends. Seriously, you never find out who wanted to kill that politician or why! As unsatisfying as that is already, it gets worse.

See, the bad guy, in trying to kill Nancy Allen, accidentally kills some other girl. So his solution is to go on a killing spree, so that when he actually kills Allen, it will look like she was just another one of the serial killer's victims. In fact, he shows surprising devotion to this coverup idea (in the process, you get to witness a very touching love scene in a phone booth).

The ending is when this movie is slam-dunked into the dumpster. It's totally inappropriate, unsatisfying, and so incredibly misguided, it's almost funny. It's a shaggy sdog tory ending.

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