You know how nuclear weapons are the scariest weapons that you puny humans have come up with (that question was rhetorical by the way) well you’d think that the security measures to keep them under lock and key would be second to none. The thing is this film establishes that someone stealing a nuclear weapon happens so often that there is actually a term for it, namely…well…Broken Arrow. This film was made in 1996 and directed by John Woo. John Travolta and Christian Slater are the leads battling one another over stolen weapons of mass destruction, and features co-stars Samantha Mathis, Delroy Lindo and Bob Gunton.
Before we get started let me say right off the bat that I am a huge fan of John Travolta and generally the hammier he is, the more I enjoy his films. Broken Arrow is one of his better hammier performances and even though the film was released 20 years ago it is still one of my favourites…so let’s have a look, so tell me, how do you steal a nuclear weapon??
Major Vic ‘Deak’ Deacons (Travolta) and Captain Riley Hale (Slater) are pilots in the United States Air Force. Deak clashes with his commanding officer after the two friends have a good natured boxing match but they are nevertheless assigned their next mission. The mission involves flying a B-3 Stealth aircraft equipped with a pair of live nuclear weapons during a training exercise over a nation park in Utah.
After completing the mission Deak suddenly attacks Hale, trying to kill him, but Hale fights back and Deak ejects him from the aircraft. Deak sends a garbled distress call to his home base, before ejecting himself, and then allows the plane to crash. A recovery team is sent in to retrieve the two nuclear weapons but a mole planted within the team murders the rest of the squad and ensures that the weapons are recovered by Deak instead.
Meanwhile Hale, who survived his ejection, regains consciousness and meets a park ranger named Terry Carmichael (Mathis). He explains what has happened and that he need to contact his base so he can warn them that Deak has stolen the nukes. Working together the two are forced to set off after Deak, in order to recover the weapons before he can use them…
Anyone familiar with the work of director John Woo (think Mission Impossible II, Face/Off and Paycheck) will know that he is someone who likes to focus on the action and leave the plot as more of an afterthought. Here the plot couldn’t be more simple – pilot, fed up with his lack of promotion through the ranks, steals two nuclear weapons in the hopes of blackmailing the government for a few million. Now that the plot is out of the way, Woo focuses on blowing things up. Action comes thick and fast with numerous things exploding and all manner of sequences taking place in planes, trains and automobiles.
Acting wise Travolta is a very good tongue-in-cheek baddie (something he went on to do again in 1997’s Face/Off – also directed by Woo) who has a good on screen chemistry with Christian Slater. In the film the two were friends until Deak tried to kill him which has effectively killed the friendship for Hale, but Deak claims that just because he tried to kill Hale, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still like him. Travolta does make a good villain, simply because he is still very likable and will make the audience chuckle. He is obviously having so much fun with the character that suits the over the top style of Woo.
Slater also manages to fit the bill of the hero trying to stop a man he used to call his friend from potentially killing millions. He isn’t nearly as likable as Travolta but the two do work well on film together and this film does give some great lines when the two share several scenes.
Essentially Broken Arrow is a standard check-your-brain-at-the-door affair that is thoroughly entertaining for anyone who enjoys plenty of action and not much of anything else. Broken Arrow doesn’t waste time establishing deep characters, emotional stories or anything other than blowing things up. If the audience want emotion stories, etc, then realistically they wouldn’t be watching a John Woo film in the first place.
This is a film that focuses on explosions, action sequences and the good guy beating the bad one.
Honestly there is not much more to say about it, the film is a great popcorn movie, and despite being old it is still worth tracking down. I will always give Travolta a Thumbs Up for any over the top, and tongue in cheek character he plays, and here is one of his hammiest role and I am totally fine with that.
8/10 – Broken Arrow is a cracking action film in which the audience can be forgiven for rooting for the bad guy. Travolta is obviously having a ball playing Deak and the supporting cast are made up of familiar faces who also do a pretty decent job.