The second of two major summer action adventure pictures involving bombs and the nut jobs who play with them--Jan DeBont's SPEED was first out of the gate--BLOWN AWAY is the more ambitious and less successful film. It's too high-minded to work as the proverbial roller-coaster, but it's
too slick and effects-oriented to pull off the weighty back story about the Irish Troubles and one tormented man's quixotic quest.
There's a sly, malicious psychopath loose in Boston, a mad bomber whose first triumph is an explosion at a bridge that kills Blanket (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), a member of Boston's elite bomb squad and the best friend of Jimmy Dove (Jeff Bridges), who's just retired from active duty to marry
pretty violinist Kate (Suzy Amis).
Haunted by grisly black-and-white flashbacks whose significance is gradually revealed, Dove soon learns the identity of the bomber: he's Ryan Gaerity (Tommy Lee Jones), an Irish Republican so immoderate in his views that even the IRA wanted nothing to do with him. Gaerity, who can "make bombs
out of Bisquick," has just broken out of maximum security prison using a bomb made from ingredients equally homespun: blood, wool and a porcelain commode. He flees to Boston, and then sees Dove, who has just disarmed a bomb planted in the Harvard computer lab, painted as a reluctant hero on TV.
Gaerity can't believe his eyes: it's because of Dove that he's spent years in jail.
Dove, we learn, was once Liam, a naive Irish patriot. Gaerity recruited him, taught him to build bombs, and conceived a terrorist plan that went terribly wrong. Liam helped construct a bomb, then realized Gaerity intended to detonate it on a crowded street; he tried to abort the mission, and the
device went off, killing his friends. Liam escaped, eventually making his way to America and assuming a new identity. Gaerity was caught, tried and imprisoned. The vengeful Gaerity, who has taken up residence in a picturesquely rotting gambling ship called the Dolphin, decides to make Dove's life
a living hell, and begins terrorizing the bomb squad.
Two more members die when Gaerity wires their robot contraption to explode, and Anthony Franklin (Forest Whitaker)--who replaced Dove as Blanket's partner--barely escapes an ingenious explosive wired to his stereo headphones. Gaerity makes taunting phone calls to Dove, threatening Kate. Dove
confesses his secret identity to Kate, then packs her off to the beach house of old friend Max O'Bannon (Lloyd Bridges), but continues his charade at work. He reveals Gaerity's identity, but lies about how he knows. Suspicious, Franklin begins investigating Dove's past.
Gaerity plots to kill Kate on the Fourth of July, when she's appearing with the Boston Pops orchestra in an outdoor concert. Dove tracks Gaerity to his lair and the two battle it out; Gaerity dies when a complex booby trap blows the Dolphin to toothpicks. Franklin rescues Dove and the two rush
to save Kate; Gaerity has wired a bomb to the brakes of her car, and Dove must disarm it while they hurtle through traffic. He succeeds, and Franklin offers to keep Dove's secret if Dove will let him take credit for stopping the wave of bombings. Dove agrees.
If SPEED triumphs by virtue of its spectacular, carefully mounted development of an ingenious bare-bones conceit, BLOWN AWAY, by contrast, meanders desperately. First it's about Dove's midlife crisis: a motorcycle-riding hotshot, he wants to settle down and have a normal family life. Then it's
about Gaerity, and his crazy capering, his witty signature flourishes, the mocking videotape he sends the Boston police. Then it's about Dove and his past, then it's about Franklin, then it's about the Irish expatriate community in Boston, then it's about saving Kate, who's been absent for the
better part of an hour but reappears just in time to be in distress. You want to like BLOWN AWAY for aspiring to be more than an adrenaline machine, but you can't, because it doesn't know how.
Jeff Bridges--a fine and subtle actor in films ranging from THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS to FEARLESS--flounders in the role of Dove. He's defeated by accents--broad Boston nasality that comes and goes, and a brogue that's never really there--and by his character's infuriating self-flagellation. Tommy
Lee Jones has a fine old time as Gaerity, but he was a meaner and funnier celluloid psychopath in UNDER SIEGE, and the Rube Goldberg explosives Gaerity devises are so ridiculous it's impossible to take them seriously. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: The second of two major summer action adventure pictures involving bombs and the nut jobs who play with them--Jan DeBont's SPEED was first out of the gate--BLOWN AWAY is the more ambitious and less successful film. It's too high-minded to work as the prove… (more)