Tag Archives: John Woo

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.

Mission Impossible 2 (2000) Review

Time: 123 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium level violence
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Thandie Newton as Nyah Nordoff-Hall
Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell
Dougray Scott as Sean Ambrose
Brendan Gleeson as John C. McCloy
Richard Roxburgh as Hugh Stamp
John Polson as Billy Baird
Radé Sherbedgia as Dr. Nekhorvich
Director: John Woo

Tom Cruise returns to his role as Ethan Hunt in the second installment of “Mission: Impossible.” This time Ethan Hunt leads his IMF team on a mission to capture a deadly German virus before it is released by terrorists. His mission is made impossible due to the fact that he is not the only person after samples of the disease. He must also contest with a gang of international terrorists headed by a turned bad former IMF agent who has already managed to steal the cure.

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The original Mission Impossible directed by Brian De Palma was a huge success, and would naturally get a sequel. Instead of the original director being in charge of it, it’s John Woo who directs this movie. Woo known for his over the top action movies like Broken Arrow and Face/Off, so you can expect the kind of movie that we got with Mission Impossible 2. It’s known by pretty much everyone as being by far the worst in the series and for very good reason. However, the biggest problem with the movie isn’t necessarily that it’s cheesy and stupid, its that it tries to do that while still having a rather dull plot, it’s a rather mixed bag.

From the very beginning you can tell that something is off. By the time we cut to Tom Cruise rock climbing, you begin to notice that this movie seems like it’s very much an 80s movie, whether it be the music, the slow motion, the cheesy dialogue, Tom Cruise wearing sunglasses (it’s not surprise that The Matrix game out the previous year) or Tom Cruise’s hair. In order to enjoy it, you have to know that it’s not really a Mission Impossible movie. Even the ridiculous aspects of the other films are amplified, for example there are at least 4 face mask reveals over the course of the movie with no explanation or showing of characters even creating them. This is very much a standard Tom Cruise action movie, not a Mission Impossible movie. At first one would think “okay, it’s not a Mission Impossible movie or a good movie, but at least it could be an entertaining movie”. However this movie is really dull and has such a mediocre story. On top of that, this movie has so much exposition dumps and ironically it tries way too hard to be serious. While this movie is very over the top with its action scenes, we don’t get many of them until over an hour into the movie, and no that first hour isn’t entertaining or intriguing in the slightest. If this movie was consistently cheesy and over the top at least this movie would work on some way. But here we have a really by the numbers and average action movie that just has some moments of enjoyable ridiculousness.

None of the cast do that great here. Tom Cruise is not Ethan Hunt here. He is trying to play an American James Bond (Brosnan era), it’s actually rather jarring how goofy he is here. He has a lot of charm, says one liners and acts like a playboy. Even the villain notes that he “grins like an idiot every 15 minutes”. While Ethan Hunt in the first Mission Impossible wasn’t particularly deep and had some moments where he was just invincible (the character improved in MI3), he still had some vulnerable moments and wasn’t a James Bond sort of character. For whatever reason that wasn’t present in the second film. Tom Cruise tries his best here though, to his credit he does go all in with whatever he was told to do, he does have genuine charisma and is very dedicated. Also all his stunts are great and he is worth all the praise for it, from rock climbing in Utah to having a knife nearly touch his eye halfway through a very intense fight scene near the end. Thandie Newton is a great actress but here she’s got really nothing to work with and doesn’t leave any kind of impression. The ‘relationship’ between her character and Cruise is so unbelievable and hilarious. Ethan Hunt has the smallest team here out of all the movies, with only 2 people. The first is Ving Rhames who returns as Luther Stickell, having appeared in every Mission Impossible movie, he’s one of the best characters of the series. Unfortunately it seems that all the personality and humour was sucked from him and I have no idea why. Despite this he still fared better than the second team member Bill Baird played by John Polson who was completely forgettable. The villain played by Dougray Scott is really silly, cliché and over the top, and not in an enjoyable way. He’s also really boring and dull, and he gets quite a bit of screentime so when he was on screen he was just kind of annoying. He’s really hard to take seriously and is by far the worst villain in the series. Richard Roxburgh plays another villain but he is a little better than Scott. Brendan Gleeson is in this movie for some reason, he plays such a small role it makes you wonder why he was in there to begin with. Anthony Hopkins is also in this movie in one scene for some reason, he just comes and he goes quickly.

John Woo is the most prominent person in the entire movie, his style is everywhere. There is an awful lots of slow-mo, even in non action scenes, there are people flipping and flying everywhere, and there are doves flying in front of the camera. To Woo’s credit, the action scenes, for as over the top as they are, are pretty good and entertaining for what they are. In the third act, John Woo dials up the craziness to 11 and is filled with explosions, motorcycles, slow-motion, people jousting with motorcycles and jumping in mid air to collide with each other, it’s absolutely wild. The third act is so ridiculously stupid and filled with so many action clichés that it’s actually entertaining, and you stop caring about the dull plot. Also the end fight features some pretty good stunts, in fact the fight scenes are all done pretty well, even if it does feel out of place from other Mission Impossible movies. The CGI is quite bad, and doesn’t really hold up today but its far from being the main problem with the movie. Hans Zimmer’s score is pretty good.

If you plan on watching the Mission Impossible movies, you don’t need to watch this one. There’s not really anything you’re missing. It really has a dull plot with not much of substance, and despite all the entertainment factors, it’s still not enough to make this a completely entertaining movie. With that said, there is some fun to be had with Mission Impossible 2. Tom Cruise despite not being Ethan Hunt here is very dedicated, some of the action is entertaining (especially in the third act) and it features so many silly moments that end up being hilarious. Just don’t treat it as a Mission Impossible movie, be aware that it’s not like the other Mission Impossible movies (and I mean that in a bad way).