Broken Arrow is simple to describe - it’s a grade-Z action movie with loads of money behind it and a director with an eye for extremes. John Woo followed up 1993’s Hard Target with this fiasco, a brain dead actioner involving nuclear weapons, an evil John Travolta, and non-star Christian Slater in the hero role. It doesn’t work.
At a glance, this doesn’t have the feel of a John Woo movie. Yes, bullets hit targets with loads of sparks, dual pistols are fired as the shooter slides down, and there are numerous stand offs, but Broken Arrow is missing the hard energy and kinetic style. It feels like something made for TV.
The script doesn’t help. Some of the dialogue here is painful, such as Delroy Lindo trying to explain the effects of an underground nuclear explosion. Travolta is the only character with any notable style or charisma, though it’s a character he’s played many times before. Slater and Samantha Mathis are stuck with nothing in terms of character, forced to run at every turn.
A rare misfire for Hans Zimmer, the music feels like it was pulled from an no budget ‘80s western at best. Woo’s constant use of slow motion prolongs the already extended action scenes. The loads of explosions on top of explosions hardly increase the intensity, and instead lower the plausibility.
Double crosses are common and come from nowhere. The overall plot is ludicrous, as Travolta’s character would have had to set up this scheme years in advance to steal two nuclear weapons and it still might not have worked. The classic “timer ticking down” motif is repeated constantly, and it becomes as tiring as the never-ending chase sequences.
The only thing Broken Arrow delivers on is a spectacular explosion as one of the nukes goes off. The images here are remarkable, and the special effects strong. It’s a shame the rest of the film doesn’t come together as well as that shot.