Following an old-school hero/antihero formula, Broken Arrow is a classic nineties action movie. So, you know what to expect: a lot of explosions, shootouts, stunts, and witty one-liners. The director is none other than John Woo and this was his second American movie after Hard Target. Now, I went into it expecting the same old shit but I was pleasantly surprised by several things. The pacing is excellent and the story progresses in an exciting way. Just when you think that the stakes could not possibly get any higher they somehow do. Plus every early setup has a later payoff, making all these little bits and pieces fit perfectly together.
The stunts look incredibly dangerous, especially towards the end. As you can probably guess, there’s not much CGI here just a whole lot of believable practical effects. There’s something about seeing these huge explosions and actual car crashes that makes this a very satisfying experience. On top of all of this we will get a lot of cool military jargon and a couple of great characters. Now, sure none of this seems very realistic but this is a movie with one thing in mind and that’s entertainment.
You can definitely call Broken Arrow a guilty pleasure or a dumb action movie. However, then you would have to call that almost all action movies in existence. Even your favorites. Although I will admit there’s a lot of dumb stuff here. We open with a boxing match between our two leads and as soon as that’s over they’re off to flying a $3 billion plane carrying fucking nukes. And their banter is sometimes so bad and cliched that it’s good. So, you can trash the movie and squeeze even more fun from it.
Vic and Riley are two best friends and colleagues. They are pilots for the US Airforce and about to embark on a secret mission. On this secret mission they will be flying a stealth bomber carrying two nukes, but things will turn to shit pretty quick. One of those men is dead set on blowing up something and there’s only one man who can stop him.
Now, I’m not so sure you can call Broken Arrow a Die Hard in the desert. Cliffhanger is for sure Die Hard on top of a mountain but I’m not so sure about this one. If you look at the structure of the plot and the characters, it feels more like something from a theater. John Travolta gave another memorable bad guy performance smoking cigarettes every five minutes. Opposite of him we have former teen star Christian Slater as a more realistic hero underdog. The same can be said about Samantha Mathis’s character and the two of them had a lot of chemistry.
Actually, Woo put their pictures together and said: “they fit” and this is how they got the roles. Slater even declined the opportunity to be in Assassins in order to work with Woo. I also recommend you check out his next movie, Face Off, an even more ludicrous and over-the-top blend of science fiction and action. Finally, just a couple of clarifications when it comes to the terminology. Broken Arrow is a term describing a US nuclear weapon accident that does not create the risk of a nuclear war. Empty quiver is the right term, in this case, describing a theft, loss, or seizure of a nuclear weapon. The Sum of All Fears also deals with that scenario.
Director: John Woo
Writer: Graham Yost
Cast: John Travolta, Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis, Delroy Lindo, Bob Gunton, Frank Whaley
Fun Facts: Over 60,000 rounds of ammo were fired during the production.