Blow Out

Year: 1981
Production Co: Cinema 77
Director: Brian De Palma
Writer: Brian De Palma
Cast: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz

Brian De Pama's conquered just about every genre there is, and here he drifts partway between the Hitchockian mysteries of old and his own Dressed to Kill -like style of neon-tinged, smutty 80s sex thriller.

What's easy to miss is the accomplishments in staging and editing. There's nothing flashy about it, but De Palma frames his actors and cameras to make even the most innocuous sequence exciting. Watch John Travolta as sound editor Jack Terry splice a recording he's made to images in a magazine to make a little film so he can identify what he thinks is a gunshot sounds.

Normally it'd be as exciting as watching someone operate a computer (the age-old movie problem - how to make naturally-immersive computer use exciting). But with simple and effective sound and camerawork that takes its time, De Palma clinches the suspense Jack feels building as he makes his discovery. It's just one of his many directorial accomplishments in an otherwise so-so thriller.

Out at night to capture some sounds he needs for the last schlock horror film he's involved with, Jack watches a car veer off a nearby bridge and go plunging into the river. He dives in to find the driver dead but pulls the girl in the passenger seat (Allen) out.

It seems an open and shut case, but Jack's sure he heard a gunshot that blew out the tire of the car. And after he tells the police his story, why is a highly placed political fixer asking him to pretend the girl doesn't exist?

While a fearsome assassin (Lithgow) makes his way ever closer to Jack and his new friend determined to tie up the single loose end to the conspiracy, he's going to have to play the media and use his sound skills to get the girl and save the day.

Like a lot of De Palma's work, the details are more worthy of your attention than the plot.

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