With De Palma’s release happening this weekend, I decided to go back and take a look at two of his most under-viewed films. With these reviews I’d like to take a look at two sides of De Palma as seen by the contrastive nature of the two films, those being Blow Out & Murder á la Mod. Beginning with Blow Out, this film marks De Palma immersing himself in the world of conspiracy thrillers a decade after conspiracy thrillers were in. Expanding ideas he had previously planted in Murder á la Mod and expanding upon what Antonioni had presented to us in Blowup, here we get to follow John Travolta’s Jack, an expert sound-man at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Most of the time, whenever we see Travolta in a film he’s usually playing a complete doofus or the player, but here we have on of Travolta’s most overlooked performances where he brings an entire depth to his character, cementing him in the real world. Playing an audacious character in Jack Terry, John Travolta really stands out in this film, bringing an every-man type of feel to the role plus marking that persona with paranoia, haunting baggage, bad luck, and an astute side to him, Travolta truly leads the film and brings a new light to the whole idea of him. Aside from him, you’ve got Nancy Allen who does feel like a lesser talent alongside the brilliance Travolta seems to bring to the screen.
Where the film really shines aside from Travolta’s incredible performance, is in De Palma’s inventive spin on the conspiracy thriller where he blends his dark spin on classic material alongside his Hitchcockian abilities. Finding a way to tie this grand story about political assassinations to something so familiar to him like the film industry is such a smart move from De Palma’s behalf as he is able to apply everything he knows about the industry to Travolta’s character in order to make him look like an even smarter character who understands his surroundings. And by specifically tying the film to the exploitation film-market De Palma is also able to weave in a comedic side-story that adds levity to the heavy material explored in the film.
As for the finale many people complain about, I personally find it an incredibly bold move that defines the torment Travolta’s character feels everyday, spinning the film’s entirety on its head at the last minute. It takes incredible skill to be able to pull something like this off and De Palma executes mercilessly, defining a new way to look at the realism behind a conspiracy thriller, De Palma toys with Travolta’s character, taking him to the breaking point and leaving him to torture in that same spot. De Palma’s Blow Out is a truly under-appreciated treasure, a fantastic conspiracy thriller with several twists and turns that lead towards an unexpected finale charged with a heavy statement, placing it at an 87 out of 100 from my behalf.