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Blown Away (1994)

Kino // R // July 14, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted June 23, 2015 | E-mail the Author

Not to be confused with the "two Coreys" movie, Stephen Hopkins' Blown Away (1994) stars Jeff Bridges as Lt. Jimmy Dove, veteran member of the Boston Police Department's bomb squad who doubles as a devoted soon-to-be husband and dad. Unfortunately, Jimmy is actually pulling triple duty: he was born Liam McGivney and once belonged to a Northern Ireland terrorist cell, which explains his job proficiency. His former actions led to the imprisonment of fellow terrorist Ryan Gaerity (Tommy Lee Jones), who's recently escaped and planning a little payback. Just when Dove seems comfortable in his new life, Gaerity's increasingly elaborate bombing spree puts almost everyone Dove knows in immediate danger, from relatives to co-workers, with plenty of innocents just for good measure.

At just over two hours, Blown Away is one of the most overstuffed thrillers you're likely to see; it wants to be a character-driven drama, sobering political statement, tense action film and more, but doesn't really succeeds at any of these. The main problem is pacing: Blown Away drags terribly when there aren't any countdown timers around, which leads to plenty of dull, long stretches when momentum should be constantly building. Of course, it doesn't help that Gaerity's a laughable villain almost every step of the way: from Jones' ridiculous accent to his character's hazy motivations and almost comically over-the-top explosive traps (and let's not forget the U2 karaoke), he's not the type of antagonist you'd want to frame a movie around and keep your audience from chuckling the whole time. In contrast, Dove feels like a more grounded and believable character...or maybe it's just because Bridges' disappearing Boston accent is slightly more forgivable, since he's essentially leading a double life.

It's a shame, too, because director Stephen Hopkins admits in a new audio commentary---recorded exclusively for this new Blu-ray---that their original accents weren't as...well, dodgy. Though we don't get any audio proof, Bridges and Jones reportedly had their accents down cold...but test audiences couldn't follow along, so they re-looped the audio several times to appease the masses. Although these accents are hardly the worst thing about Blown Away (without question, it's the film's uneven pacing that kills most of the momentum), it would've been interesting to hear better vocals from both sides, if only to dial back the unintentional camp a few notches. Still, there's a certain enjoyment in watching Bridges and Jones take turn hamming it up; they've starred in more satisfying thrillers from the decade (Arlington Road and The Fugitive), but Blown Away is still kinda fun in its own ridiculous way.

Believe it or not, Blown Away's last home video release was MGM's 1997 DVD; it was not only one of the studio's very first releases, but also featured a solid anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer paired with a crisp Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Although I can see why the film didn't earn multiple DVD releases, that doesn't make this Kino Lorber Blu-ray (licensed by MGM, naturally) any less of a surprise: we're given another terrific A/V transfer plus a handful of old and new bonus features not included on the barebones DVD. Shame it couldn't have happened to a better movie, though.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Surprisingly enough, MGM's 1997 DVD was anamorphic and good for its time, but almost 20 years and a courtesy bump to 1080p will obviously make a difference. Blown Away has aired sporadically in HD and looks to be sporting a new master; this 2.35:1 transfer follows suit with a clean, stable image that's largely free of digital imperfections such as interlacing, compression artifacts, and excessive noise reduction. Image detail and textures are pleasing, the natural color palette holds up nicely, and black levels are consistent from start to finish. Still, there's not a tremendous amount of depth or stunning imagery here, but that's most likely a source material issue; Blown Away looks very much like a product of its time and, without question, Kino's Blu-ray carries its own weight. Die-hard fans will be pleased, especially those anxious to retire their DVDs (which are almost old enough to drink by now).

DISCLAIMER: This review's compressed screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p resolution.

The available DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 mixes offer a predictable amount of punch. Dialogue and background effects are clean and well balanced while Alan Silvestri's score chimes in occasionally without fighting for attention. There's a solid amount of dynamic range and hefty low end during both options; not surprising, given the number of booming explosions and slightly boosted moments of tension. It'll have most folks reaching for their remotes every so often...and though this "big theater" mixing is somewhat of a personal pet peeve, it's not too troublesome here. Surround activity is also ample at times, but this is largely a dialogue-driven film so long stretches sound essentially the same regardless of audio choice. Optional English subtitles are included during the main feature.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

The static interface looks easy enough to navigate but isn't very intuitive; on two separate occasions, I thought I had the correct audio/subtitle settings selected but the opposite was true. This one-disc package arrives in a standard keepcase with poster-themed cover artwork; no insert or slipcover is included.

Bonus Features

Not surprisingly, MGM's original 1997 DVD release of Blown Away didn't include much in the way of supplements, aside from the film's Theatrical Trailer. That returns here...and to Kino Lorber's credit, they've manages to toss in a few new and vintage scraps just for good measure (some or which may have been sourced from the MGM laserdisc, seen above). First up is an Audio Commentary with director Stephen Hopkins, which was recently recorded and seems to be exclusive to this Blu-ray; though he admits up front to having not seen the film in years (does anyone else hate this?), Hopkins does a decent job of detailing the film's 1994 production and serves up a good amount of insight and personal memories along the way. Topics include set design, his working relationship with cast and crew members, the aforementioned audio changes, pre-CGI special effects, explosions, shooting in Boston, and more.

On a similar note, we also get a vintage Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (20 minutes) with comments from a few select cast and crew members; this definitely has a back-patting and promotional feel to it, but at least it's slightly more in-depth than your average EPK production. Last but not least is the Music Video for "Take Me Home" by Joe Cocker and Bekka Bramlett (4 minutes), as well as the aforementioned trailer. It's a well-rounded little set of extras and more than I expected, especially in comparison to the DVD, which adds a bit of value to this package.

Final Thoughts

For a big-name thriller revolving around an international terrorist bent on revenge, Blown Away is actually kind of boring. It's packed with way too much half-baked backstory and character motivations, obvious set-ups, and a plot that gets more complicated and over-the-stop as the film lurches forward for two full hours. Cram in a pair of awful accents, too many supporting characters, and less action than you'd expect...and you've got a film that didn't exactly impress back in 1994 and hasn't aged particularly well. It's still watchable at times and, despite their accents, Bridges and Jones are enjoyable to watch as they take turns hamming it up...but this is much more "guilty" than "pleasure". Kino Lorber's unexpected Blu-ray, on the other hand, is surprisingly good, serving up a terrific A/V presentation and a handful of old and new extras that didn't appear on MGM's 1997 DVD. It's enough to recommend Blown Away to established fans, as well as make this an impulsive weekend choice for interested parties. Rent It.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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