THE 90S was a strange time for the Irish in Hollywood.
While leading men like Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan struck a blow for Ireland on the big screen, 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 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 gone straight who now lives and works in Boston as a bomb disposal special for the police.
According to the back story, a few years back Dove ended up blowing a load of British people up, including Gaerity’s sister, but saw the error of his ways and went into hiding after becoming a government witness against Gaerity. Subtlety is not this film’s strong point.
Jimmy’s life is turned upside down, however, when his compatriot and former partner-in-crime Ryan Gaerity (Timmy Lee Jones) breaks out of a cartoonish Irish prison intent on revenge against Jimmy, who ducked out of one planned bombing, leaving Ryan to take the fall.
Leaving aside Jones’ decidedly one-dimensional characterisation of Gaerity, the film is notable for featuring not one, not two but three of the worst attempts at an Irish accent ever put to film.
As the film’s main protagonist, Bridges is the main culprit, spending much of the film flitting between a bizarre attempt at an Irish brogue and his more familiar American accent. At times it feels like he forgets his character is Irish. But you won't. Not by a long shot.
Yet his efforts pale into comparison when stacked up against his father, Lloyd Bridges, who plays his Irish on-screen uncle with all the subtlety of Warwick Davis as the titular villain in the Leprechaun movies.
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 and an affront to the Island of Ireland. 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 along the way. He doesn't sound Irish. He sounds mad.
Hamming it up to the max, the only real surprise is that director Stephen Hopkins didn’t go the whole hog and have Jones kitted out in a bright green outfit, complete with a buckled hat and shoes, a bag of potatoes and a pint of Guinness.
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!