Broken Arrow micro review: An over-the-top director (John Woo), an over-the-top composer (Hans Zimmer), and an over-the-top actor (John Travolta) giving a virtuoso performance make a B-movie watchable.
Broken Arrow full review: Broken Arrow has many of the ingredients of a top-flight action film: Massive stakes, strikingly beautiful cinematography, races against time, invigorating fight scenes, a truly evil villain. However, it feels like the script was written with crayon on a napkin, on a whim.
…and it may even be a better movie for it.
Yes, Broken Arrow is breathtakingly stupid.
There’s so much stupidity in this movie, but there’s a wealth of charm as well. You just gotta roll with it.
If there’s any true complaint about the film, it’s that Christian Slater’s character lacks the charisma of Top-Gun-Tom Cruise or even Point-Break-Keanu Reeves. It’s not that he’s bad, it’s just like he is two stages into the six-stage devolution of the “action star pool” in which Hollywood uses to pull from. Stallone and Cruise still make movies, but Hollywood tries every year to get us to buy into Tatum and both Hemsworths (shout out to Chris for how jolly Thor was before sent into exile) as action stars. There is a certain level of bravado in the performances seen in Top Gun and Point Break and conviction that I don’t see enough of in Hollywood these days (though I don’t see many movies anymore).
There was a time in the NFL when the old-school, retired players probably looked at the prima donna divas whose focus was on money and jewelry and groaned. That’s how I think the action stars of the 80’s and 90’s look at Channing Tatum and the Hemsworths…and maybe action movies in general. I have a hard time BELIEVING Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson are actually hard-nosed military operatives.
Speaking of the NFL, Howie Long makes his glorious cinematic debut in Broken Arrow.
The rest contains spoilers, and if you are really interested in seeing this movie, reading forward may ruin the shock of when a lot of this ridiculous stuff happens.
The basic premise is that Major Vic Deakins (Travolta) – switching between calm, cigarette-smoking mastermind and giddily hysterical games enthusiast – is a disgruntled Air Force Major who feels like his talents aren’t being appreciated.
Deakins decides he’s going to use a training exercise in which the Air Force flies actual nuclear weapons over the deserts (WAIT…it gets crazier) to steal two warheads and team up with mercenaries to hold Denver, Colorado and much of the central United States hostage until Washington pays to have him disarm them.
Deakins is PRETTY SURE he killed his co-pilot in the training exercise, Captain Riley Hale, played by Christian Slater. He believes he covered this part of the plan by punching Hale in the face just before ejecting him into the Utah desert, even though he had earlier punched him many times in the face in a boxing match with minimal effects (UH…OHHHH-KAAAAAY).
So, Deakins and his mercenaries kill the special forces unit sent to recover the nukes and aren’t worried about little ol’ Hale who’s teamed up with Park Ranger Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis at the PINNACLE of her hotness, though she’s still the most beautiful actress alive). Of course, these highly-trained, ex-military mercenaries decide – despite needing to move forward with their plan – to have fun with Hale and Carmichael rather than kill them right away (WHY NOT, RIGHT?). Of course, they end up dying. Broken Arrow movie sets a benchmark for helicopter deaths in a non-war movie.
Once Carmichael and Hale steal the warheads from Deak and his henchmen, Hale falls for a trap and ends up activating one of the warheads. But don’t worry, he DETONATES IT IN A MINE because – apparently – a nuclear missile’s radiation is contained within an underground mine like, ya know, if you fart under a blanket or something.
Hans Zimmer plays this goofy, almost-Spaghetti-Western theme whenever John Travolta is meditating on his first taking of a human life, or whenever he’s offering a soft drink “or something”, or whenever he’s just deep in thought regarding his next move.
Laws of physics mean nothing in this movie’s bright, beige, stony universe. A character who forms a philosophical bond with Hale dies a few minutes later in – you guessed it – A MASSIVE HELICOPTER EXPLOSION. This tragedy doesn’t bog down Hale too much that he won’t spit a one-liner while bombarding Deakins’ train. We also never find out what happened in Washington, or if they tried to put the cash in Deakins’ account.
Broken Arrow doesn’t have superb replay value, yet it is definitely a fun film to watch with a group of – preferably tired – people who may end up speaking over the non-Travolta moments. Would I rather see a more nuanced, pragmatic exploration of good-evil dynamics? Yeah. Would I have liked a more complicated, realistic set of conflicts and confrontations? Sure.
That said, there is a place for this kind of film, and the effort that went into all the parts except the script are evident onscreen. John Woo understands spectacle. This may not be his most spectacular movie, but it is definitely stupid fun.
7 out of 10