Broken Arrow (1996) – John Woo

I dig me a John Woo movie, and I remember when Broken Arrow came out, and how me and some friends completely devoured it (and loved Hans Zimmer’s score – which got used for Scream 2 as well). Woo has had some trouble when it comes to making American films, but there always seems to be an audience for his cinematic and stylistic gun ballet that he fills his stories with.

This time around he puts John Travolta at odds with Christian Slater as the pair play a Stealth bomber pilots who find themselves on opposite sides when Travolta’s Deakins intends to steal the bomber’s two nuclear bombs and make a profit off them.

Slater as Hale is after him, having been ejected from the crashing bomber, and with him is a park ranger, Terry (Samantha Mathis). The pair are all that stand between Deakins and his ultimate goal, as the cunning villain seems to have accounted for every contingency.

Explosions, diving through the air with two pistols blazing, sweeping camera moves, and enemies that were once friends, all familiar tropes to Woo’s films, are played out here, and while there is nothing really new to be added to his oeuvre with this, that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

I remember reading that at this point in his career, Slater was leaning more towards a Harrison Ford style of acting rather than his sarcastic Nicholson-esque eyebrow work, and there are a couple of stunts in the film that seem to be nods to that, specifically Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The film has no delusions about what it is and isn’t. It’s popcorn entertainment, a gun ballet that you can sit and enjoy and not worry about some deeper meaning to it that you may be missing.

It’s a fun ride, filled with improbable moments, that are made enjoyable by the leads, the direction, the camera work, stunts, sound and so much more. It’s a ride, it’s not supposed to be anything more. It’s fun, and it’s obvious that everyone in it is having a good time.

And I love how Woo rounded out the cast, Howie Long, Delroy Lindo, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Frank Whaley. And having just re-watched it for the blog, I then chastised myself for not having watched it again sooner. It must be well over a decade or more since I last saw this one, and I enjoyed it so much (and was delighted to hear lines of dialogue that have become part of my own lexicon resurface in their original context here).

John Woo will always be a favourite film-maker of mine, his films aren’t always the best, and some have suffered at the hands of editing boards and critics, but I find, for the most part, I’m always going to love settling in for a John Woo action flick!

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