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‘Blown Away’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 01, 1994


Stephen Hopkins
Jeff Bridges;
Tommy Lee Jones;
Lloyd Bridges;
Suzy Amis;
Forest Whitaker
gruesome bomb injuries, profanity and those accents

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In this listless movie summer, anything with a modicum of fun is welcome. "Blown Away" isn't much to savor -- it's about a Dixie cup's worth of relief -- but it goes down easily.

Just like "Speed," the recent flick about a bus wired to explode if it drives less than 50 mph, the film isn't a story. It's a series of suspense ordeals, with booby-traps to be defused, the usual clump of fragile lives at stake and that inevitable, time-running-out, sweat-glistening question: DO I CUT THE RED WIRE OR THE GREEN?

Strangely enough, "Blown Away," which pits bomb disposal expert Jeff Bridges against vindictive saboteur Tommy Lee Jones, has something even more heart-stopping than the threat of instant obliteration. It's the alarming possibility that Bridges and Jones -- both attempting Irish accents -- will completely swallow their tongues in the attempt. Playing ex-patriated terrorists from war-torn Belfast, both actors sound as if they're chewing insoluble chunks of Irish Spring soap as they slur.

"YER GOD MEEH AHHHL WRA'N, OIHM NARD A DESTROYER AIEM A CREE-EER-TAR," says Jones, at one point. In English we would put it this way: "You got me all wrong. I'm not a destroyer. I'm a creator."

Jones, a freelance prince of destruction too nutty for the IRA, is hopping mad at Bridges -- now a Boston-based bomb squad officer hiding his Oirish criminal past. Seems erstwhile terrorist Bridges thwarted one of Jones's bombings back home.

Although Bridges's move saved a lot of people (Hollywood heroes -- even at their worst -- still save people), the blast left Bridges's lover dead (Jones's sister) and caused Jones to be arrested. Springing himself from prison, Jones comes to Boston for payback time -- just as Bridges promises his new bride (Suzy Amis) that he's going to retire.

There isn't a nitro-drop of believability in the movie. For one thing, Bridges -- normally a brilliant performer -- seems lost when his character is required to experience emotion. But Jones, as always, takes villainy to a higher, entertaining place, whistling, quipping and mugging his way through the movie. He may not have the accent, but he's got the attitude down.

"Blown Away" isn't really a human story. It's a series of well-orchestrated, even playful suspense ordeals: When new squad member Forest Whitaker straps on his stereo headphones at home, for instance, he realizes Jones has wired them to explode. Keeping as still as possible, he uses his feet to dial for help. When Bridges comes to the rescue and agonizes over which wire to clip, Whitaker -- who dares not budge -- listens to Aretha Franklin with amusingly frozen terror. This harmonic convergence of laughter and anxiety is exactly what "Blown Away" is all about.

BLOWN AWAY (R) — Contains gruesome bomb injuries, profanity and those accents.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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