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I hate to even suggest anything so crass but Brian De Palma’s Blow Out is one of the rare films that could probably become even more intriguing if remade with modern technology. In retrospect it’s interesting to watch star John Travolta making due with the technology he has the resources to procure, but almost everything about it is outdated to the point that most kids could probably arrange a better setup for themselves today. The low-tech aspect also provides a great appeal to the film, too, lest I seem to complain. I am making a point more about needless remakes vs. one to which something could be added by more modern technology.

But back to the actual film, Travolta’s quest to recreate a murder scenario through use of only sound (at first) adds a hopeless, dramatic aspect to the film, as well as a conspiracy theory nutcase feel that could have been played up better than a brief argument with a cop. A cop, I should add, who grew immediately and needlessly antagonistic with the only witness to the death of a government official. This kind of plot necessity is one of the few elements that throw the script off kilter. Without showing the cop being hushed it makes little sense that he would be so hostile with a key witness and a hero for saving a drowning girl, even if this part is quieted as well. I doubt, though, that a police detective would be privy to something of this nature so soon. In fact, the idea of a governor’s assassination hushed so entirely, quickly and seamlessly makes little sense.

The quick hush, while a little too clean, does highlight one thing that De Palma clearly understands about conspiracy: it only works without revelation. Travolta’s lack of effectiveness in the grand scheme of the plot makes the shadowy background players seem all the more untouchable, and John Lithgow’s rogue agent makes the lack of sense make more sense, if that makes sense.

I loved the cast of the film. Lithgow portrays a great killer with his cool mania. He makes his agenda clear immediately, showing no remorse for the fact that he follows his orders in his own way, breaking whatever directives he feels necessary. The lengths to which he goes to hide his planned murder of Nancy Allen is chilling in both its savageness and effectiveness. His technique and signature weapon make for great visual moments as well. Travolta as Jack plays the best type of character for him, the schlub from a working class city neighborhood. Philadelphia makes a great backdrop for him. Jack’s skills as a B-moviemaker are a really nice touch in making him an essential character, not passive. Seeing him piecing the footage together to his sound work with old school equipment would be utterly lost in the digital era. Nancy Allen’s dizzy but winning Sally seems just along for the ride, which works as she grows and falls into Jack’s passion for the truth.

Conspiracy rushing aside, Blow Out very effectively plays on the idea of one man fighting a system to bring out the truth behind a cover up. Travolta is outmatched on every front, pushed aside by authority and sabotaged but never stops until the game comes to its natural conclusion, sad though it may be. His tribute in the end is perfectly fitting to close out the story, too. On second thought, no one bother remaking this movie. Just let it be. 3 ½ stars


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