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Monday, October 8, 2012

Blow Out (1981)

A nice taught thriller by Brian De Palma with a very good performance by John Travolta as the sound-man who accidentally records a car accident that he later discovers to be murder. Nancy Allen is fine as the ditzy damsel in distress who Travolta must enlist to get to the bottom of the mystery, and John Lithgow is decidedly creepy as the killer. The final scene of the movie with Travolta back at work in the studio is brilliantly weird as John Travolta's character has obviously gone off his rocker due to the events of the movie.

Of course the assassin Lithgow plays has got to be one of the most incompetent hired killers in the history of movies and only succeeds as far as he does due to extreme luck. Let's break it down:

Dennis Franz plays a sleazy photographer who makes his money taking pictures of men cheating on their wives, he is hired to set up the Governor by getting compromising shots of him with Nancy Allen who is Franz's go to girl for these kind of things. Lithgow was hired to oversee this but he really wanted the Governor dead not disgraced (his employers pooh-poohed his assassination idea in favor of sleazy photos that would disgrace the Governor), but Lithgow goes ahead with the killing by shooting out the tire of the Governor's car, sending it into the river. Franz got all this on film including the muzzle flash of the gun. So Lithgow decided to commit murder even though he knew it was being film. Brilliant!

Lithgow wants to get rid of the loose ends and witness Nancy Allen is one of those loose ends, so he decides the best way to kill her without tipping off the world to the conspiracy is to make her death just one in a series of killings by some pyschopath. His first red-herring victim he grabs off a crowded street as she is lined up to get on a city bus, and the only reason he get's away with this is because nobody turned around or has peripheral vision. His second serial killing is a of a prostitute at a busy bus terminal, he follows her into the woman's washroom, get's into the next stall and leans over the top to strangle her. This all takes place in they cities major transit terminal and his plan hinges on nobody coming into the washroom while he was committing the murder or anyone seeing a man entering or exiting the woman's washroom. Then it's time to get the incriminating evidence and kill Nancy Allen. He pretends to be the local reporter that has contacted Travolta about his theory about the accident and tells her to meet him at the transit terminal (he must love that place) in broad daylight. This plan only works because it relies on the fact that Nancy Allen's character never watches the news, something which Lithgow's character isn't aware off. He then leads her down to the subway platform, passing dozens of witnesses, to where he plans to murder her. He get's spooked by a subway worker and so takes her on a trip down to the waterfront where he get's the film and tape from Nancy, tosses it into the water, and thus revealing himself to be the villain. Does her strangle her and leave her to be found by some passing stroller? No, apparently it's too dark and secluded of an area so Lithgow decides to drag her some place else to be killed. WTF? Not enough witnesses? Max Von Sydow's assassin from Three Days of the Condor would have been appalled at this man's lack of planning and execution.

Those quibbles aside it is still a fun movie and well worth watching. The Criterion Blu-ray is very nice as one would expect from them.

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