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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.05%
Worth A Look: 27.71%
Pretty Bad: 18.07%
Total Crap: 10.84%

5 reviews, 53 user ratings

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Broken Arrow
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Pretty fun Woo pyrotechnics."
4 stars

"Broken arrow," we are told, is the government term for a lost nuclear missile. Freudians will know better. 'Broken Arrow,' John Woo's let's-see-what-we-can-blow-up-next action romp, is loaded with enough phallic symbols (missiles, guns, knives, trains) to keep Quentin Tarantino happily theorizing for weeks.

The bad guy, cocky military pilot John Travolta (think Han Solo crossed with Vincent Vega), steals not one but two thermonuclear missiles; the good guy, heroic but untested Christian Slater (think nobody in particular -- Slater's gun does his acting here), must outwit Han Vega and recover the missiles. The movie is infatuated with potency games and one-upmanship. Who's got the missile? John Wayne Bobbitt could tell you what "broken arrow" really means in this macho-showdown context.

Broken Arrow, like the recent From Dusk Till Dawn, is so unapologetically what it is -- lowbrow crapola -- that you either roll with it or roll your eyes at it. If only the script, indifferently sketched in by Graham Yost (Speed), didn't make eye-rolling so easy. This writer seems taken with hurtling vehicles and young heroes challenging older psychos (as Keanu Reeves did with Dennis Hopper) -- he must have seen Strangers on a Train as a kid and never gotten over it. Yost's scripts are skeletons onto which gifted directors (Speed's Jan de Bont, and, in this case, the legendary John Woo) can graft meaty action sequences. But those hoping for witty dialogue, due to the presence of Tarantino alumni Travolta and Slater, are in for a dry evening. Yost can't get enough of lines like "We gotta get outta here!" and "We don't have time to discuss it!" (Quentin would have given them plenty of time.)

While Travolta calmly executes anyone who threatens his plan ("I don't see what the big deal is," he muses after making his first close-range kill), Slater tracks him across the desert with the help of brave park ranger Samantha Mathis. Though stuck in a Sandra Bullock clone role, Mathis transcends the thousand annoying "What's going on?" lines that mar her first half hour. Slater apparently doesn't have time to have a personality in this movie, but Mathis has enough for both of them. She's not impressed by the boys with big guns.

Two other guided missiles give Broken Arrow semi-nuclear capability. Behind the camera: John Woo, the Hong Kong master of crescendo cinema, whose movies (The Killer, Hard Boiled, and this one) elevate gunplay and explosions to concussive ballet. On the screen: John Travolta, whose recent tough-guy performances (Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty, and certainly this one) make smug aggression seem like a state of grace. They both have elegant moves, and they turn this mosh pit of a script into an intricate, rather beautiful dance of momentum and force.

'Broken Arrow' is good trash; to be great trash, it needs a screenwriter who knows it's trash and proceeds from there.

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originally posted: 01/28/07 09:37:51
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell cartoonish but exciting 4 stars
4/02/10 JB Travolta's performance is terrible and Slater shows why he is not a quality actor 1 stars
3/29/10 Sugarfoot Disappointing when it came out, but now one of Woo's better American efforts. Sad. 3 stars
12/24/09 Jeff Wilder John Woo's direction and Travolta's performance raise it above the ordinary. 4 stars
9/19/09 Steven Fun cheese. 4 stars
8/30/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome storyline! 5 stars
3/30/08 Pamela White great action Travolta does not make the best villian 3 stars
1/19/08 dude awesome 5 stars
5/25/07 Sugarfoot This is when Woo's legacy started to crumble. 3 stars
3/09/07 johnnyfog Travolta's crazy for no reason. Fairly entertaining 4 stars
1/11/07 Sepi53 Good Action film, Travolta is always great! 4 stars
12/01/06 David Pollastrini Ain't it cool? 4 stars
9/01/06 Michele fun travolta's always good 4 stars
6/12/06 William Goss Along w/ The Peacemaker, a decent actioner that I can flip on and enjoy more than I should. 4 stars
3/11/06 Dillon Pure fun with Travolta chewing up the scenery 4 stars
8/16/05 ES Mr. Travolta playing the same villain we'll get to see over and over again!= poor us 1 stars
6/06/05 Daveman Crap, but entertaining crap. 2 stars
6/03/05 Indrid Cold Very cheesy compared to Face/Off, but still a decent action movie. 3 stars
5/30/05 Phil Thinking "this is one of those crap movies". But can't help liking it! - Decent action flic 4 stars
2/19/05 Jeff Anderson WHAT A WASTE! The action scenes are weak & Travolta just isn't convincing as a villian! 2 stars
9/27/04 Archanist_101 What a classic 5 stars
7/01/04 "Meth Lab" for Dummies. CLASSIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
5/09/04 PAYNE Well... At least it's better than another Van-Dam flick! 5 stars
3/28/04 john "you know...for kids!" 2 stars
3/26/04 Mars 2071 great braindead action-flick 5 stars
3/17/04 PAYNE_KillerZ A nice little brain dead ACTION flick, for a careless Friday or Saturday... !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/05/04 Brandon Brown the movie is dumb 2 stars
12/14/03 Agent Sands Not what one would expect from the Woo man, but a damn good popcorn movie. 4 stars
5/16/03 mr. Pink Oh come on! Yes, it's preposterous and gleefully so! Great Fun! 4 stars
4/25/03 Dark Barøn Travolta is funny! wait, this isn't a comedy?? 3 stars
10/14/02 Jim Unusually involving action flick 4 stars
5/21/02 Charles Tatum Often headache inducing. 3 stars
1/22/02 R.W. Welch Overdone and unconvincing, but some socko explosions. 3 stars
1/12/02 Eskimo Samantha Mathis & Christian Slater together again (lifts ass & farts) oh yeah! 2 stars
12/09/01 Shane Robert Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! stealing nukes yet again, can't terrosit think of something original!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
12/02/01 Brian Broken Movie would have been a better title 1 stars
10/27/01 Andrew Carden Let's Face It, Travolta Is Only Good In Thriller, Comedy, or Musicals. 1 stars
8/31/01 TLsmooth The start of Travolta's second decsent into hollywood oblivion. Thank you Jesus. 1 stars
6/26/01 Lars Pettersson John Woos worst movie.(I haven't seen Hard target) But anyways... 2 stars
4/29/01 Bront switch your brain off, and enjoy a movie length explosion, with a great zimmer score 5 stars
12/04/00 Cristopher Revilla good action flick, three helicopters destroyed, weird! 4 stars
11/13/00 The EVIL Penguin just awful 1 stars
6/28/00 Bruce Can't touch Woo's Hong Kong efforts, but still pretty good 4 stars
4/29/00 Joseph P. Ulibas Woo's contractually obligated studio film 3 stars
1/29/99 Scott Stipe This movie led the way for a new wave of in your face action films. Wow 5 stars
1/23/99 C Dub About as entertaining as taking an arrow in the ass. 1 stars
11/16/98 Jules I hate it when an original director buys into the mainstream... 2 stars
11/14/98 Rageboy Woohoo! John Woo and John Travolta rock! Christian & co = cool! Hans Zimmer's score rox 5 stars
9/14/98 Chip Taylor First rate action. 4 stars
8/31/98 Mister Whoopee Lousy. Woo's Nike ad with the Brazil soccer team was more enjoyable. 1 stars
8/28/98 Johny Forgiveable because Woo could the power to make FACE/OFF 2 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball I'm with Back To The Future girl. Arrow marked the death of Slater's career. 1 stars
8/24/98 JenniferLorraine Depends on what you want from a movie. I felt it was predictable. 2 stars
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  09-Feb-1996 (R)
  DVD: 09-Mar-1999



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