Broken Arrow (1996) Review

"Broken Arrow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Broken Arrow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: John Woo
Writer: Graham Yost
Producer: Terence Chang
Cast: John Travolta, Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis, Delroy Lindo, Bob Gunton, Frank Whaley, Howie Long
Running Time: 108 min.

By Numskull

The John Woo Movie That Is Not A John Woo Movie.

The maestro of mayhem served as director and is credited as such, but he had to provie he could turn out a commercially viable, no-frills action flick without getting too violent or stylish for American audiences.

And it worked. Broken Arrow is a strong film on all fronts if it’s mindless, Hollywooden action you seek. The story is kinda bland but not laughably so, the thrills ‘n’ spills are satisfactory but not overly explicit, and the acting, while far from great, is sufficient rather than flat-out bad (except for Howie Long…which begs the query: which is worse, retired football players in supporting roles or basketball stars with whole movies built around them?…Never mind, stupid question.).

John Travolta is pissed off that he’s not advancing on the U.S. Air Force chain of command, so he steals a thermonuclear device and threatens to blow shit up with it. His former buddy Christian Slater, the token plucky female (Samantha Mathis) and a pencil-pusher (Frank Whaley, who starred with Kevin Spacey in SWIMMING WITH SHARKS, a personal favorite of mine) have to stop him. Sound simple enough? It damn well ought to.

There’s nothing here to blow you mind, but nothing to numb your skull with boredom either. It’s far superior to the butchered version of Hard Target that was shown in U.S. theaters. It can be seen as John Woo trying his hand at an Americanized action flick or as John Woo hacking out an unremarkable product to prove his capabilities, depending on your stance, but either way, it’s reasonably solid.

Numskull’s Rating: 6/10

By James H.

The ideas behind “Broken Arrow” are simple ones. They borrow elements from other movies. The plot? Essentially the plot is the same as “Thunderball”. You remember “Thunderball” don’t you? The bad guys steal two nuclear warheads and demand money, or they blow some shit up. The film also borrows from “Speed”. What a coincidence, Graham Yost, writer of “Speed”, also wrote this. There’s a little lack of creativity on his part. As well as certain plot devices, it also borrows certain situations, and essentially the same characters from “Speed”.

That’s not to say it’s a bad movie. John Travolta really digs in and has fun as Deakins, the pilot who has been passed over for promotion too many times, he’s flipped his lid. Christian Slater isn’t bad either, he still doesn’t have that screen presence to pull of a good action hero though. Samantha Mathis plays a park ranger, who is pretty much the same as Sandra Bullock’s character from “Speed”.

What saves this from being a failure of a movie is John Woo’s expert directing and his uncanny knack to create amazing action scenes. The highlight of the action is the shootout in the mine. The finale on the train is pretty damn cool, but it seems a little too hokey and preposterous.

“Broken Arrow” is quite the good action film despite its flaws, and it does rank higher than some other of John Woo’s American films (“Hard Target”, “Blackjack”). It’s the kind of movie to watch with the volume up (especially on DVD).

James H’s Rating: 7/10

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