Movie Review: Blow Out (1981) (2024)

Directed by acclaimed director Brian De Palma and starring John Travolta, Blow Out is another neo-noir classic. Despite being hailed by critics upon its release, neither Travolta nor De Palma received the respect they deserved for it. The movie failed at the box office but has gained some respect and developed a cult following.

Many of the themes De Palma often presents in his movies, such as blurring the line between reality and illusion, mystery, voyeurism, and obsession, appear in the movie. The cast includes Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, and Denis Franz, who are also seen in other De Palma movies. The plot is set in the city of Philadelphia, PA.

The movie begins with a masked killer entering a women’s hostel and targeting a girl in a shower. As the woman realizes she is about to die, she delivers a grotesque scream. Soon, the viewer realizes that she has fallen for De Palma’s illusions and is actually watching part of a B-horror movie within the movie.

Producer Sam (Peter Boyden) and sound technician Jack Terry (Travolta) agree that they need a better scream to enhance the scene. Sam is also unhappy with the sound of the wind played in the background as the killer approaches the hostel.

Sam assigns Jack the tasks of finding a better recording of the rustling wind and a better scream. When Jack returns home from work, a local TV channel reports that Governor George McRyan of his state is a strong contender for the next President of the United States.

That night, Jack goes to a local park to capture the recording of natural wind for the movie he is working on. As he listens to the nocturnal sounds, the piercing sound of a gunshot breaks the calm of the moment.

Next, an out-of-control car careens off the road, breaks the barriers, and plunges into a creek at the park. On instinct, Jack jumps into the creek to attempt a rescue. Just as Jack jumps in, another person at the park, who also observes the happenings, quickly leaves.

Jack notices that the driver of the car is dead with his eyes open, but a passenger, a woman, is desperately screaming for help. Jack breaks the glass of one of the car doors by smashing it with a rock from the bottom floor of the creek and rescues the woman.

Later, Jack visits her at the hospital just as she is gaining consciousness. Here, Jack is first interrogated by a detective about the happenings on the fateful night. Then another man in a suit approaches Jack and informs him that the man who was killed in the car was none other than Governor McRyan. He then persuades Jack to hide the fact that there was a woman with him as it may harm the deceased Governor’s reputation. Jack learns that Sally, the girl he rescued, was an escort.

Jack then visits Sally, who convinces Jack to take her away from the hospital. Jack takes Sally to a motel, and as she sleeps, he reviews his audio recording from the night. He discovers that there was the sound of a gunshot just before the car lost control.

Later, while watching the news, Jack learns that a man named Manny Karp (Denis Franz) filmed the accident on video and that some of the snapshots of the video are in a tabloid.

Jack digs deeper into the investigation. As the plot moves forward, it is revealed that the accident was part of a multilayered conspiracy. Karp and Sally too are pawns in this conspiracy. Thrown into the mix is a psychopath (John Lithgow) who is now targeting Sally and Jack to eliminate the ‘loose ends’.

In typical De Palma fashion, the screenplay moves at a brisk pace and ends in an unexpectedly shocking manner. Surveillance equipment of the 80s is ubiquitous in the movie and is an essential part of the plot. Blow Out is one of De Palma’s best movies. Interestingly, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, a classic film I reviewed in the past, had a big influence on the movie.

Travolta’s career was on a downhill trajectory when the movie was released. Unfortunately, Blow Out would do little to resurrect it. He would have to wait for more than a decade for Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction to revive his career. As mentioned before, despite the accolades of critics, past and present, Blow Out failed at the box office. I would recommend that you seek out and watch this one if you love thrillers.

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Movie Review: Blow Out (1981) (2024)


Is Blow Out a good movie? ›

This film is simply a masterpiece owing to its breathtaking cinematography, where clever editing makes every shot a work of art. John Travolta gives one of his finest performances, and Nancy Allen is a ray of sunshine in a dark sea of heavy themes.

Why did Blow Out flop? ›

More than its star, though, the reason for Blow Out's box office disappointment is that, at its core, it is a relentlessly and unapologetically cynical film: more specifically this cynicism is juxtaposed with the iconography and colors of American patriotism.

Why is Blow Out so good? ›

Patiently building the tension, relying on a truly wonderful script, on the legendary Vilmos Zsigmond's phenomenal photography, on impressive acting by the protagonist as well as John Lithgow and Nancy Allen, wisely steering clear from underestimating the audience at any point, De Palma creates an ambiance so nerve- ...

What happens at the end of Blow Out? ›

Jack rushes up to save her, but he is too late; Burke has already killed her. Jack takes Burke by surprise, stabbing him with his own weapon, but he is anguished over the fact that Sally is dead.

What is Brian Depalma's best movie? ›

The 12 Best Brian De Palma Films
  • The Untouchables (1987) ...
  • Mission: Impossible (1996) ...
  • Phantom of the Paradise (1974) ...
  • The Fury (1978) ...
  • Casualties of War (1989) ...
  • Dressed to Kill (1980) R | 104 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery. ...
  • Snake Eyes (1998) R | 98 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller. ...
  • Body Double (1984)

Is Blowout good or bad? ›

Not only does a blowout dry your hair faster, but it also styles your hair as it dries so that your overall styling time is cut in half. Not to mention your style is set and will last for days meaning you save even more time each day that your blowout style stays in place.

Who directed the movie Blowout? ›

Blow Out is a 1981 American neo-noir mystery thriller film written and directed by Brian De Palma.

Are blowouts bad? ›

You may have heard that blow-drying can be damaging to your hair. While this can be true, it's just the opposite of blowouts. Hair blowouts can actually improve the condition of your hair because your style can last for days.

Why did Jack use Sally's Scream? ›

Be All My Sins Remembered: The final scene makes it pretty clear that Jack added Sally's dying scream to the slasher film in order to self-flagellate himself for the act of not saving her.

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