Irish terrorist Ryan Gaerity escapes from his cell in a castle prison in Northern Ireland, killing a guard and his cellmate in the process, after turning a toilet into a bomb.
In Boston, Lt. Jimmy Dove is a veteran member of the police force's bomb squad, on the verge of retirement and helping to train newer recruits. Dove hides that he is really Liam McGivney, a former member of a Northern Ireland terrorist cell. He had been friends with Gaerity, but when Gaerity tried to set off a bomb that would have killed numerous civilians, he interceded, ending in the death of his girlfriend, who was also Gaerity's sister, and leading to Gaerity's imprisonment. Devastated, McGivney had moved to Boston and took on a new identity, hoping to find atonement in saving others by defusing bombs. Only Dove's uncle Max O'Bannon is aware of his past and expresses his desire for Dove to retire early, having clearly shown his atonement.
Gaerity makes his way to Boston, taking residence in an abandoned casino boat, and tracks down Dove. He takes a job as a janitor at the police station to learn more about Dove's present life and his co-workers. Gaerity sets up bombs specifically designed to kill the defusers, which kill three of Dove's team members. Dove receives a call from Gaerity and realizes that his wife Kate and daughter are in danger. He explains his true past to them, and convinces them to go into hiding at a nearby beach house. A member of Dove's squad, rookie technician Anthony Franklin, who has linked Dove's former life to Gaerity, is safely rescued from another bomb planted by Gaerity with Dove's aid, and promises Dove any assistance he can offer.
Max decides to try to stop Gaerity himself, trying to get close to him at an Irish bar, but instead ends up captured by him, and latched into a makeshift bomb. Dove tracks down Max, and goes to retrieve his tools, but Max, realizing that Gaerity had created the bomb to kill both of them, intentionally triggers the bomb while Dove is away, sacrificing himself. In analyzing the bomb's debris, Dove finds a roulette ball that points to the abandoned ship, where he finds Gaerity. Gaerity reveals that he has set up another bomb in Kate's car and activates its arming mechanism before engaging with Dove in a large mêlée fight throughout the booby-trapped ship, which has been rigged to blow up in a few minutes. Dove gains the upper hand, but Gaerity handcuffs himself to him, preventing him from leaving. Dove is saved by Franklin at the last second, who had followed Dove to the ship, and the two escape in time before the ship explodes, killing Gaerity in the process.
The two race back to the city, hoping to stop Kate before she starts the car. They arrive too late but are able to catch up to Kate, and Dove jumps into her car. He finds the complex bomb and manages to defuse it in time. As they recover, Franklin tells Dove he knows his past identity but will keep it a secret if he can take credit for taking down Gaerity; Dove agrees and gives Franklin his badge before leaving with Kate and his daughter.Jeff Bridges as Jimmy Dove/Liam McGivney
Tommy Lee Jones as Ryan Gaerity
Suzy Amis as Kate Dove
Lloyd Bridges as Max O'Bannon
Forest Whitaker as Anthony Franklin
Stephi Lineburg as Lizzie
John Finn as Captain Fred Roarke
Caitlin Clarke as Rita
Christofer de Oni as Cortez (as Chris de Oni)
Loyd Catlett as Bama
Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Blanket
Cuba Gooding Jr. as Bomb Squad class member
Ed O'Keefe as press photographer
Mike Starr as Francis the Barkeeper
It was the first action film starring Jeff Bridges, who was by then a 43-year old character actor. Bridges said he was always interested in the genre, particularly as his father, Lloyd Bridges (who co-stars in the film) appeared in High Noon fighting Gary Cooper. Another actor new to the genre was Forest Whitaker, who wanted to play "a character that could walk into a room and say: 'I'm the best. Stick around and maybe you'll learn something from me'".
Filming took place in Massachusetts from August 1993 to January 1994. The climactic ship explosion was so powerful it shattered 8,000 windows in East Boston during filming. Paul Hill, one of the Guildford Four who had been wrongly imprisoned in the UK, helped the filmmakers with background information.
Blown Away received negative reviews from critics and holds a 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 19 reviews. The film was widely criticized for the poor Irish accents of the three main Irish characters, with Tommy Lee Jones' portrayal of Ryan Gaerity particularly receiving the harshest criticism.
Blown Away opened at fourth place in its opening weekend, with $10.5 million, which at the time was MGM's biggest opening weekend ever. It finished its North American run with $30 million.
The VHS and Laserdisc of the film was released on December 14, 1994. The UK rental tape of Blown Away notably featured a Tango Orange advertisement in the trailers at the start which was banned from television for being frightening.
MGM issued Blown Away on DVD in 1997, while Kino Lorber picked up the movie for a Blu-Ray release in 2015.