THE 90S was a strange time for the Irish in Hollywood.
While leading men like Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson struck a blow for Ireland and Northern Ireland respectively, the decade’s insatiable appetite for thrillers saw The Troubles serve as the inspiration for some decidedly dodgy cinematic affairs.
Often pitting all-American heroes against Irish terrorists with ties to paramilitary groups that were the IRA in everything but name, this strange sub-genre produced many notable low points over the course of the decade - Micky Rourke's A Prayer for the Dying and the Brad Pitt/Harrison Ford turd The Devil's Own - but 1994’s Blown Away takes some beating.
A pulpy, earnest thriller in the vein of Keanu Reeves’ vastly superior bus-based blockbuster Speed, Blown Away is most notable for pitting Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones against each other in a battle of arguably the two worst attempts at an Irish accent ever put to film.
The plot centres around Bridges’ Jimmy Dove, a one-time Irish terrorist cell member gone straight, who now lives and works in Boston as a bomb disposal specialist for the police. What are the chances.
According to the back story, a few years back Dove ended up getting cold feet after realising one of his bombs would kill a bunch of innocent civilians. However, his partner-in-crime Ryan Gaerity (Tommy Lee Jones), thinks differently, opting to detonate the device in a turn of events that leads to the death of Dove's girlfriend who also happens to be Gaerity's sister.
Subtlety - and plotting - are not among this film’s strong points.
Jimmy escapes to Boston, assuming a new identity and somehow circumventing any and all background checks to become a police bomb expert. The problems start when Gaerity breaks out of a cartoonish Irish prison intent on revenge against Jimmy, who left Ryan to take the fall for the botched bombing. Revenge that involve a lot of bombings.
Leaving aside Jones’ decidedly one-dimensional characterisation of Gaerity, the film is memorable for featuring not one, not two, but three of the worst attempts at an Irish accent ever put to film.
As the film’s chief protagonist, Bridges is the main culprit, spending much of his time on screen flitting between a bizarre Irish brogue and a plain old American accent. At times it feels like he forgets his character is meant to be Irish. But you won't. Not by a long shot.
Yet his efforts pale in comparison when stacked up against his father, Lloyd Bridges, who plays his Irish on-screen uncle with all the subtlety of the leprechaun that features on the front of the Lucky Charms breakfast cereal box.
But even the elder Bridges’ over-the-top Irishman antics are overshadowed by the true villain of the piece – in every sense of the word – Tommy Lee Jones.
A scene-chewing villain, his Northern Irish accent is the stuff of nightmares. It's a surprise no declared an international incident over it. Playing on every stereotype on the book, it’s an effort that’s astonishing for the fact it is difficult to decipher any of what he is saying. Ever. He doesn't sound Irish. He sounds mad.
Hamming it up to the max, the only real shock is that director Stephen Hopkins didn’t go the whole hog and have Jones break out in an Irish jig, while playing a flute with a bag of potatoes and a pint of Guinness beside him.
He does his level best though. One particularly turgid scene sees Jones’ Gaerity singing Lá Breithlá Shona Dhuit in a toe-curlingly bad rendition of the Irish classic. Painful doesn’t do it justice.
Another sequence finds the would-be IRA man dancing to U2 – you honestly couldn’t write it – except someone did.
Now 25 years old, Blown Away has been largely consigned to history. It didn’t do big numbers at the box office and neither Jones nor Bridges are all that keen to talk about it since.
The only saving grace of these film is that is prompted the end of this largely misguided sub-genre.
Even so, it’s worth rewatching to ensure such awful attempts at Irish accents are never committed to film ever again. Hollywood, take note!