Genre: Action and Crime Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.
Release Date: July 1st, 1994 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Stephen Hopkins Actors: Jeff Bridges, Tommy Lee Jones, Suzy Amis, Lloyd Bridges, Forest Whitaker, Stephi Lineburg, John Finn, Caitlin Clarke, Loyd Catlett, Ruben Santiago-Hudson
n the Castle Gleigh Prison of Northern Ireland, Gaelic-speaking inmate Ryan Gaerity (Tommy Lee Jones) uses the arrival of a new cellmate to orchestrate an explosive jailbreak. Meanwhile, in Boston, former beat cop turned bomb squad lieutenant James (“Jimmy” or “JD”) Dove (Jeff Bridges) surprises little Lizzie (Stephi Lineburg) and her mother Katie (Suzy Amis) for the child’s birthday party. But Jimmy’s revelry is interrupted by the police department, which calls him to the MIT computer lab where a crazed student has hooked up the trembling Nancy (Lucinda Weist) to a desktop rigged with C4 – forcing her to frantically type before the hard drive fills up and detonates. Keeping his cool, despite having flashbacks to a prior, failed, wartime disarming attempt years earlier, Dove manages to once again save the day and look like a hero on television.
But Jimmy secretly can’t stomach his career choice and puts in for a simpler teaching job. At dinner, he proposes to Katie, insisting that he won’t regret removing himself from the spotlight for the safer – though possibly less fulfilling – new position. Retiring from the field gives him an opportunity for a joyous wedding and to train cocky replacement Anthony Franklin (Forest Whitaker). But Jimmy’s honeymoon in Costa Rica never gets off the ground due to the death of longtime pal Blanket (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), the victim of a custom bomb that could have only been constructed by a professional hellbent on chaos and revenge – an expert who is killing off Boston’s bomb disposal members one by one.
It begins with deceptively calm female vocals and Irish-sounding music by Alan Silvestri, betraying the eventual subject matter solely by the large font of the title words flashed across the screen. A varying soundtrack, featuring a wide array of artists, proceeds to pop up at inconvenient moments. Adding to the aural confusion are perhaps too many scenes of small talk, merrymaking, and backstory explanations that stretch the running time, though jarring musical cues and ominous strings routinely break up the leisureliness to effectively warn of impending explosions. And there’s certainly increasing tension generated from the limitless potential triggers for blasts – turning a key, plugging in a phone cable, pulling a light cord, igniting an oven, and even opening the refrigerator door.
Coming from his Academy Award win for “The Fugitive,” Tommy Lee Jones reverts back to playing the villain, as in “The Package” from 1989, with a thick accent and exaggerated efforts to appear uniquely maniacal. But he’s no Dennis Hopper from “Speed,” released just a few weeks earlier, with a coincidentally similar theme and far superior pacing. The rest of the cast is adequate but not sensational (notably, Lloyd Bridges, Jeff’s real-life father, plays associate Max, and Cuba Gooding Jr. has a very brief role as a class member).
A subplot to discover Jimmy’s connection to Ryan and the strained relationship between the newlyweds doesn’t help the focus, while several questionable elements, such as how Gaerity could so easily don the guise of a janitor to sneak into the police department, or how he could gather the information necessary to sneak into Dove’s home and other private locales of city officials, detract from the script. But surely the most nonsensical aspect is Gaerity’s senselessly complex Rube Goldberg booby trap in his hideout. Still, the stunts and bomb-diffusing excitement (including an earth-shattering fulmination toward the finale) generally outweigh the contrivances and editing problems.
– Mike Massie