Broken Arrow is the second American feature by John Woo, who is regarded as a visionary director. Visionary meaning that he has certain director trademarks that give a movie a distinct look. In his case it’s the use of doves, Mexican stand-offs, slow-motion, doves, characters jumping through the air while shooting two guns and some more doves. His first US movie was one of Jean Claude van Damme’s more memorable ones: Hard Target. Not a classic, but a good fun action flick which certainly benefited from Woo’s directing style.
Broken Arrow is a code name for when a nuke goes missing. In one of the smarter lines of the script a character responds to that news with “I don’t know what’s scarier: losing nuclear weapons or that it happens so often there’s actually a term for it”. John Travolta is a pilot who’s responsible for stealing them, but has an opponent in his friend and co-worker Hale, played by Christian Slater when he was still an A-lister. The movie opens with a sparring session of boxing between the two of them of which Slater loses. You can probably guess by this sort of exposition what the final stand-off between the consists off.
Watching this movie I kept a little checklist and I’m really in doubt whether or not to put this on my Die Hard Rip-off list. It does have the whole fly-in-ointment scenario going on Die Hard made so famous, and it also shares a similar plot with Speed which I have labeled as being Die Hard On A Bus. It’s a bit of a stretch but you could call this movie Die Hard in a desert.
Obviously the director is in love with explosions considering everything he blows up. A stealth fighter jet, a jeep, not less than four helicopters, a couple of humvees, an abandoned copper mine and a train. There was a raft in this movie and for some reason it didn’t end up in an explosion. Director John Woo made good with that vehicle as he blew up a boat in his next movie “Face Off”. The explosions however do not cover up the holes in the script, nor the implausible action scenes that have become a real cliche. The talking bad guy who wants to make sure the protagonist knows what he’s up to after he killed him and the bad guys not being able to shoot the only thing standing in their way while the good guy usually needs one bullet.
Yet Broken Arrow is a movie that doesn’t completely fail. John Woo’s style benefits a bland guy like Christian Slater and convinces the audience that he could really fight. If I’m not mistaken this is one of the earlier entries in the action cinema in which they have an actual actor as the lead instead of a martial artist. The 90s would see this shift as all martial artist actors would slowly venture off into DTV movies while people like Matt Damon and Keanu Reeves started to make the world believe they were skilled fighters.
The greatest aspect of the movie is John Travolta who really seems to enjoy himself in his bad guy role. Throwing around one liners and overacting it with a certain degree of cool. Travolta is the redemption of an otherwise generic action movie with an above average budget.