Broken Arrow (1996) (part 1 of 6)

SUMMARY: John Travolta is a rouge Air Force pilot with a psychotic streak a mile wide, and a team of highly trained soldiers ready to steal nukes at his command. The only man who can stop him? Well, Christian Slater is available, so I guess he’ll do.

…Are we sure we can’t find someone else? Okay, fine.

[Note from the author: This was originally going to be a recap of Hard Target, but due to technical difficulties, we’re going with a different John Woo movie. If I were the superstitious type, I’d swear it just wasn’t my destiny to recap a Jean-Claude van Damme movie. Oh well, that’s what the blog is for, I guess.]

Broken Arrow marks John Woo’s second attempt at making an action film in America. His first was Hard Target, which had the advantage of a really cool climax and a great villainous turn by Lance Henriksen. It also had the slight disadvantage of starring Jean-Claude van Damme and being quite underwhelming, especially compared to Woo’s Hong Kong stuff. The film was decent in spite of all this, and made enough money to justify giving Woo another shot at the gold.

The resulting movie has maybe the sparsest screenplay you could ever hope to find. After the first fifteen minutes or so, Broken Arrow is basically a ninety minute-long, non-stop action fest. It’s got a great villainous turn from John Travolta, still hot off his Pulp Fiction comeback, and some amazing action sequences throughout. Unfortunately, it’s all undercut by the casting of Christian Slater as the good guy.

To put it in more modern terms, imagine if you had an action movie pitting a bad guy played by Mickey Rourke against the male lead from the Twilight movies. Sure, it might be entertaining, but the sheer silliness of it all would only drag the whole thing down.

Accordingly, Broken Arrow is a big hunk of stupid action entertainment, with gunfights, explosions, loads of recognizable character actors, and plenty of unintentional humor. It’s a great film, though not always for the right reasons.

Actually, the funniest thing about the movie might be when Siskel and Ebert reviewed it, and Gene Siskel, in what I think was a first for the show, changed his “Thumbs Up” to a “Thumbs Down” after hearing Roger’s arguments against the film.

But I give it 7 out of 10 oversized nukes. Let’s check it out.

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Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: Broken Arrow (1996)

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