Stars: Jeff Bridges, Tommy Lee Jones, Forest Whitaker, Lloyd Bridges, Suzy Amis. Written by Joe Batteer & John Rice. Directed by Stephen Hopkins. Rated R for violence, profanity.

My first impression of "Blown Away", a movie about a mad bomber and the man who must stop him, was that it was a poorly assembled film, but one based on a rather solid foundation of story and technical expertise. By all rights, it should have been a good movie; so why wasn't it? The best answer I could come up with was that, contrary to appearances, there just wasn't a movie within the material to begin with. The screenplay just wasn't finished as it frustratingly touches upon ideas, relationships, and plot details without going into anything resembling depth. Where was quality control on this one, guys?

The action centers on two characters: a Boston bomb squad officer played by Jeff Bridges, and a terrorist bomb maker played by Tommy Lee Jones. The two know each other from way back, when they had worked together building bombs in Ireland as part of an organization distinct from, but similar to, the Irish Republic Army. When Jones took the rap for a decades-old bombing, he was sent to jail while Bridges remained free. This simple fact sets in motion the events of the film, which play out as a revenge game wherein Jones harasses or blows up Bridges' coworkers and family, including his father played by Lloyd Bridges.

None of the characters in the film, not even the main ones, are fully fleshed out. Take Jeff Bridges' character, for instance. We get to see bits and pieces of what he is like now and mere glimmers of what his life was like back in Ireland, but never do we get a coherent picture of the man. In principle, the whole film suffers from this sort of fragmentation, where details which should be important are either glossed over or negligently omitted.

Jeff Bridges, whose tombstone will likely read "underrated actor", gives another good performance but even he is guilty of perpetrating one of the film's many mystifying accents. Tommy Lee Jones, who has been much in demand since his triumph at the Oscars for "The Fugitive", doesn't fare as well but that is largely due to the substantial constraints placed on his character by the film's weak script.

With its Irish mindsets, dialects and themes,"Blown Away" at times resembles a poor man's version of "In the Name of the Father", although the adversarial relationship between Bridges and Jones is more closely related to that found in "In the Line of Fire". However, "Blown Away" is vastly inferior to both of these movies.

What is the driving force of the film? How should it make an audience feel? What impression should an audience be left with? These are the basic questions that every director must address and yet, Stephen Hopkins, the director of "Blown Away", seems to have overlooked them. He's created a film that's solemn, dull and, above all, aimless. I'd claim it was a case of style over substance if only there were either.

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