Oh Brian DePalma. I think you're really overrated. This last few days has been an active attempt on my part to overcome that prejudice. I watched this film and Body Double. A quick review of my opinion of Mr. DePalma's record is required before I delve into this film.
Good DePalma Movies: Mission Impossible was good. It didn't make sense, but he didn't write it so i don't blame him. Carlito's Way is a fine film. Carrie is fabulous and tense.
Mediocre DePalma movies: The Untouchables. People think this movie is good? I think its really really mediocre. Just like Scarface, which has some incredibly neat shots, but overall can't seem to sustain most of its characters or running time.
Bad DePalma movies: Snake Eyes is really atrocious. Mission to Mars is really decent- until the incredibly crappy ending. Finally, The Bonfire of the Vanities is complete and utter junk.
This movie, Blow Out, is interesting. It is obviously referencing two films- Blow Up and The Conversation. John Travolta plays Jack, an ex-cop turned into a sound engineer for a B movie studio. While attempting to gather sounds for a movie, he observes and records a car accident that kills a presidential candidate. He dives into the water to fish out a woman from the car named Sally, played by Nancy Allen.
In the aftermath of the accident, a cover up is apparent. The woman's presence in the car is kept quiet and Jack is told to keep his mouth shut. Jack cannot help but endeavor to replay the accident and his recordings of it in his mind, and during this process believe that the accidental tire explosion was no accident. He endeavors to investigate this more and encounters and increasing array of obstacles telling him to stop looking.
As he finds out more, he encounters a sleazy photographer played by Dennis Franz, a plot to extort the candidate, and a creepy psychotic played by John Lithgow. The tension escalates as Jack and Sally decide to go public with their information. The ending of the movie is its weakest part.
A few things stand out about this movie. Some of the visuals and shots that DePalma uses are fascinating. I think the movie's opening is very, very well done. Moreover, Jack's character is well done and his backstory and behaviors are involving. The scenes in Jack's sound laboratory are particularly well shot.
A few bad things. Nancy's performance as Sally is pretty terrible- I had trouble believing Travolta would fall for her. The Lithgow character is flat and as is often the case with DePalma, I think he depicts a few too many violent acts when a simple one would easily communicate to us that Lithgow's character is a nut. The ending is bad. Contrived and formulaic. Brings to a mediocre end an otherwise fine film. I solidly recommend it, but don't bend over backwards to see it.