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Broken Arrow
1996 - R - Mins.
Director: John Woo
Producer: Bill Badalato, Terence Chang, Mark Gordon
Written By: Graham Yost
Starring: John Travolta, Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis, Delroy Lindo, Frank Whaley
Review by: John Ulmer
   
I first saw "Broken Arrow" as an in-flight movie from Heathrow to Dulles. I enjoyed it the first time, but only on second viewing did it strike me how average, misused and mediocre this film is.

Christian Slater and John Travolta play US pilots who have to fly nuclear weapons cross country. Unfortunately, half way, Travolta tries to hijack the ship and shoot Slater, but fails. He releases the nukes over sandy dunes, then launches himself and Slater out of the ship.

After crashing on ground, Slater teams up with a cutesy-tutesy ranger and the two go after Travolta to find out his plan.

Travolta plans on stealing the nukes and making the government pay to get them back, or else he will nuke the south-west of the US. So Slater and what's-her-face end up fighting for the nukes on a speeding train.

"Broken Arrow" borrows from just about every single action film out there, including "Mission: Impossible," "Speed," "Die Hard," and the list goes on and on. Mad Man steals nukes; makes people pay; Good Guy fights him. Seen it, right? Sadly, right. Everything is cliched, but the worst thing is that it has been done before, and ten times better. "Speed" was just about one of the most explosive films in recent years; "Broken Arrow" is just another rip-off.

Director John Woo, who usually makes quite good kung-fu/slow-motion flicks ("Face/Off" is one of the best action films in recent years), fails here at what he usually does so easily. Some of his mistakes are classics.

1. He presents us with an overused plot (as I said before), and shallow characters and dialogue. Now sometimes the dialogue is fun, like when an attack chopper is chasing Slater and the pilot says, "Let's have some fun."

Because if he didn't say that we'd be saying, "C'mon, he's in a helicopter and he can't shoot the guy?" But because he says he is
playing with them, it makes it more fun to watch.

There's also a part where the female lead runs at a computer nerd working on a nuclear bomb, and he grabs her and says, "You thought I was a computer nerd, didn't you? Lady, I was a Navy Seal!"

Stuff like that is great, but the other things characters say are pretty shallow.

2. With a plot (and characters) as shallow as this, he tries to make everything very dramatic and tense and symbolic. In an intelligent action film like "Face/Off" that works, but here the characters ARE shallow, and when we see them walking in slow motion making appearances (look at the scene where Travolta walks over a sand dune) just looks stupid. I nearly laughed when I saw Travolta filmed in slow-mo, and the whole thing with the twenty dollars is both overused and misused.

3. Too many explosions for its own good actually makes the film boring after a while. Truly. We get so used to the explosions that pretty soon they just get tiring and boring. I was getting pretty tired watching this flick, and thought about flipping it off at one point.

4. The ending (spoilers) involves John Travolta fighting in a train with Christian Slater over a remote control that makes nuclear bombs go off. Things like that have been done before, and while the ending is particularly messy and nice, I still have seen better endings ("Face/Off," "The Rock," "Speed"--to name more recent "explosive" movies).

I don't hate this film, and it is okay, but I'd never strongly recommend it, mainly because it is worn, misused, and slightly entertaining, but not entertaining enough.

Before I close this review, I want to address one more thing. The nuclear bomb remote. Now, hold on a sec.

Does it seem odd to you that the fate of 500,000 people can be held within a single remote control? Is this what our tax-money goes towards? So computer nerds can make really large digital readouts that look like alarm clocks, with a blinking interface that looks like a cell phone? Does our money pay so some guy can hold a TV-remote and determine the fate of half a million souls?

I sure hope not.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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