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Broken Arrow

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Broken Arrow

Starring: John Travolta, Christian Slater
Director: John Woo
Rated: R
RunTime: 108 Minutes
Release Date: February 1996
Genres: Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Samantha Mathis, Delroy Lindo, Bob Gunton, Frank Whaley, Howie Long, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Jack Thompson, Kurtwood Smith

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

BROKEN ARROW is a non-stop action film by the Hong Kong master action director John Woo. Don't waste your time seeing this film in anything less than your local monster screen house. This is the type of movie for which they made digital sound, and there is enough low base to rumble you right off your seat. Some of the noises are so loud that you may find yourself jumping straight up in the air. The subwoofers are in overdrive throughout the show. It has more explosions that I have ever seen in any film plus it has almost much fire as in BACKDRAFT. I judge action films by how much they get your adrenaline pumping, and by that metric, BROKEN ARROW really delivers the goods.

The movie starts with two fighter pilots Vic "Deak" Deakins (John Travolta) and Riley Hale (Christian Slater) sparing in a boxing ring. Every punch sounds like small bombs exploding, which is a metaphor for the rest of the film. Soon they are asked to take two live nuclear weapons on a low flying mission in a fairly new B-3 stealth bomber. Hale tells Deak he knows what turns him on, "It's the nukes. I know you love having the power of god at your fingertips."

Soon Deak turns bad, drops the nukes unarmed, and shoots Hale out of the plane. It turns out that Deak has a plan to ransom the return of the bombs, or he will blow up a large part of the southwestern United States. A wimpy civilian expert at the Pentagon, aptly named Giles Prentice (Frank Whaley), is brought in to spearhead the investigation to find the nukes. When Giles is told there is a "broken arrow", he says, "I don't know what's scarier - losing nuclear weapons or that it happens so often that we have a name for it." Giles wants to be taken seriously so he tells Hale that, "just for the record, I'm not entirely a civilian. I was a lieutenant in the ROTC at Yale."

Hale gets a sidekick of a Park Ranger, Terry Carmichael played by Samantha Mathis whom you may remember as Janie in THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT. She is great. She is full of bravado, fighting skills, and good ideas about how to get out of tough situations. The chemistry between the two of them is similar to that of Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in SPEED. I must confess, that although I admired Samantha Mathis's performance, I think Sandra Bullock could have done even it better. Actually, I wish the romantic potential between Hale and Carmichael had been more fully developed.

The script by Graham Yost is fast paced and extremely funny. When one of Deak's cohorts is shooting over the weapons while trying to hit Hale, Deak gets angry. Gritting his teeth and slowly exaggerating each word, Deak tells him, "would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons."

Travolta is menacing and well cast as a bad guy. Watch especially the way he exaggerates his mouth movements and the way he can portray evil with his eyes. He is so evil he almost becomes a caricature. Christian Slater (UNTAMED HEART and BED OF ROSES) is a wonderful actor who specializes in sweet guys with a heart of a gold. Here he proves that he can play good guys who are tough as well. He plays his character in cowboy fashion with two guns blazing as he runs and jumps toward the bad guys.

Although it has excellent acting, directing, and writing, the real reason to see BROKEN ARROW is the action and the stunts. Although it does not come up to the tense pacing of SPEED, the show really sizzles with extremely realistic special effects similar to, but much better than, those in TRUE LIES. The action sequences here are innovative, e.g., car chases, but in Hummers and explosions, but thermonuclear ones. The great editing by Joe Hutshing, Steve Mirkovich, and John Wright add to the tension of the special effects. The scene of the helicopter coming out of nowhere to get Hale shows the editing skills best. Watch how they cut back and forth between the calm of the desert and the fury of the helicopter coming.

BROKEN ARROW is a movie where it is easy to suspend disbelief and ignore the numerous implausibilities in the plot since overall it feels sufficiently real. Although I can not prove it, I believe that Hale and Carmichael managed to kill 35 of the 20 bad guys in the movie.

BROKEN ARROW flies by at 1:40. The film is rated R for violence and a little bad language. There is no sex or nudity. The violence, although sometimes bloody, was more often like a Western where the bad guys get shot rapidly and die quickly. This movie would be fine for teenagers. BROKEN ARROW provides a fast paced and exciting time at the movies, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I think you would too so I recommend this show to you and give it ***.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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