John Woo’s second American film is actually quite an improvement over his first, the stylish yet shitty Hard Target (Well, Van Damme is in it, so…). Broken Arrow though, signaled the emergence of Woo as a force to be reckoned with in the action genre in the States, largely due to the box-office success of this film (it would be fully proven in his next project, Face/Off), but despite that, Woo’s talent, already proven world wide with classics like The Killer, Hardboiled, A Better Tomorrow, is present and dominates the entire film, but like most Hollywood action movies, there’s always malaise to be found within the film’s other components that prevents it from reaching its full potential.Ok, this movie almost qualifies as formula, almost. First of all the idea is pretty promising, but then it starts dragging a lot and clichés abound, especially at obvious moments where both our hero and villain pause and start talking to each other or simply to look at each other, the most obvious and most stupid scene is when in the train, Deakins, while holding Terry hostage, opens the door and looks overhead and sees Hale, locked and loaded, but never shoots, he waits until Terry steps aside and Deakins takes cover, then he starts shooting. And it’s not until a minute or so later, when Hale jumps into the train and helps Terry to crawl into the roof of the train car that Hale and Kelly start shooting the wall of the car, where Terry was, only by then of course, Terry and Hale are already on the roof of the car. Why didn’t they start shooting the roof? Another obvious scene is when both Hale and Deakins are fighting in the B3 plane and all of a sudden, they stop scuffling and stare at each other for like 5 or 6 seconds, while the music builds up, then they go back to action. This somewhat hampers the movie since it makes it looks somewhat corny and pretentious. There are so many times that these two have the chance to kill each other but don’t, they rather look and talk at each other AND THEN pull the trigger. The script also contains a few embarrassing holes, starting off with the title itself; anyone that knows about military codes knows that the real code to define a lost nuclear weapon is “Empty Quiver,” not Broken Arrow. Then of course, what studio would try and release a movie under the name “Empty Quiver” anyways? Then when they fly the B3 Stealth airplane, we see them pushing a “stealth mode” button on and all of a sudden, boom, the plane becomes invisible. Man, how I laughed at that one, since it’s so ridiculous. Everyone knows that in a Stealth Airplane, the Stealth components of the plane are already WELDED into the plane, which means that the plane is Stealthy the minute they roll it off the assembly area. It doesn’t carry some sort of “cloaking device” which can be activated in the cockpit so it can become Stealthy (this is not Star Trek for crying out loud), IT ALREADY IS. And then catch this, to see a PARK RANGER trying to arrest a MILITARY OFFICER, even worse, arrest him for simply parachuting into her national park has to be one of the lamest ideas out of a plot hole I’ve ever seen in a while. That just annoyed me to the point that when I saw both of them scuffle for the gun, I couldn’t help it, I laughed. I also begin to wonder, why is it that the nuke contains a control panel so you can put in the code and activate it? Sure, the plot device incites that the pilots also know the codes of nukes, but that sounds somewhat ludicrous since usually the ONLY person that possesses the codes to activate any US nuclear weapon is the President and the President alone. So that particular plot device doesn’t come off that well to me. It may be true, but somewhat I find it hard to believe. Another hole I noticed was at the ending, which was really stupid, but I won’t reveal it since it’s a spoiler; I’ll let you discover it for yourself.
"Silly, Stupid, but Decent Fun"
If this film would’ve been a Steven Seagal vehicle, directed by Michael Bay or Simon West, this movie would’ve been another clichéd and formulaic sack of shit. But since it’s John Woo, he actually manages to somewhat overcome the scripts shortcomings with some really great action scenes. Numerous stand-offs, and slow motion shots and two fisted gun playing, which make his gun-blazing battles quite a delight to watch, with the only problem being that they’re few and far between. The most exciting of them occurs during the mineshaft scene, and it really delivers. But at times the action tends to be somewhat uninspired and by the numbers, though I must admit, that guy getting his guts ripped by a helicopter’s rotor blade was quite something to watch. Woo doesn’t let down in the pyrotechnics department either, with the toll being a Stealth airplane (Ok it’s FX but who cares?), a mineshaft, a train, and –the kicker– 4 helicopters. This last one may seem tiring, but hey, at least is better than nothing. I still give credit to Woo though, for making what would’ve being a dull drivelfest into quite an entertaining flick.
The performances are all right. Travolta seems to be having fun being a bad guy, but the only problem being is that he at times tends to smile a lot and overact too much that he doesn’t seem credible that much as a bad guy. The boyfriend-girlfriend pairing of Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis are ok, Slater being on autopilot for most of the film, while Mathis, wow, man, she’s pretty hot to be a park ranger. Bob Gunton is annoying as control freak businessman Pritchett, and he was really getting into my nerves with his character, so I was glad that he was killed off by Deakins (HUSH, HUSH) while Howie Long is his usual crappy wooden self. Stick to football Howie that’s what you’re only good for.In the end, this film fits in the “watch at your own risk” basket. It’s a much better entry for Woo Statewise, and pretty much qualifies as a passable rental, not to mention that this film pretty much set the basis for his next film, the masterful Face/Off. But you know and I know, and your dog knows that he’s capable of more than this, so you’d be better off renting one of his earlier classics, or Face/Off. All those films are far more entertaining and far more superior to this one.
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originally posted: 12/18/02 00:23:03