Broken Arrow (1996) Review

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Broken Arrow

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
John Travolta as U.S.A.F. Major Vic “Deak” Deakins
Christian Slater as U.S.A.F. Captain Riley Hale
Samantha Mathis as U.S. Park Service Park Ranger Terry Carmichael
Delroy Lindo as U.S.A.F. Colonel Max Wilkins
Frank Whaley as Giles Prentice
Bob Gunton as Mr. Pritchett
Howie Long as U.S.A.F Pararescueman Master Sergeant Kelly
Director: John Woo

Major Vic Deakins holds the US government to ransom by stealing a nuclear warhead and threatening to detonate it in a major city. His co-pilot and a park ranger attempt to thwart his plans.

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I remember watching Broken Arrow for the first time many years ago, it was a fun movie and one of the earlier films I saw from John Woo, if not his first. More recently I got a chance to watch it again, and it is even more entertaining than I remembered it being.

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The writing isn’t anything special, but it works well enough for this kind of over-the-top action flick. The plot is very simple, a rogue air force agent played by John Travolta steals two nuclear warheads in the desert, Christian Slater is another air force agent who has to stop him. There’s no complexity to the story, and it works as such. Broken Arrow takes place over one day and there is no downtime as the plot jumps from one action beat to another. It is helped by the lighting fast pacing, meaning that there is never a dull or slow moment throughout. It is definitely a cheesy movie, in fact there is an argument for it being one of the most over the top action movies from the 90s and that is saying a lot.

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The movie really benefits from the charismatic performances from the cast, really making the cheesiness work as well as it does. John Travolta is wonderfully fun to watch, giving one of his craziest performances of his career as the scene chewing villain of Broken Arrow. His character may be generically evil, but the performance does so much to make him memorable, and Travolta is clearly having a blast here. The way he plays this character is perfectly over the top from his line delivery to even the way he holds a cigarette is over the top. Definitely one of the highlights of the film. Christian Slater is also pretty good and likable as the protagonist, unfortunately he doesn’t get to ham it up like Travolta. That’s a shame because that would’ve made the movie even more entertaining especially in the scenes where they are facing off against each other. Still, Slater is still good enough that you’re invested in what is happening. Samantha Mathis plays the third notable character here and she’s decent, getting a lot to do here. Other supporting performances from a cast including Delroy Lindo and Bob Gunton are also enjoyable.

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John Woo directs this, and you absolutely feel his style throughout. It has plenty of his typical trademarks, including slow motion and plenty of explosions. There’s also this constant energy felt throughout which goes some way towards making it entertaining throughout. There is a lot of action, thankfully all of it is quite good. The set pieces are well crafted and the stuntwork is impressive. A lot of the action is filmed practically so it really holds up surprisingly well today. The bombastic score from Hans Zimmer also really adds to it.

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I wouldn’t say that Broken Arrow is one of John Woo’s best movies by any means. In fact, it feels like a lot of what he did here he would go on to perfect with Face/Off. That being said, it really succeeds as a cheesy 90s action flick. The plot is simple and straightforward enough and is told in a fast manner, John Woo’s direction adds a lot, the action scenes are really entertaining, and the performances are good, especially an incredibly fun to watch John Travolta. I think that it is worth checking out at the very least.

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