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 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
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