February 9, 1996 in Seven

‘Broken Arrow’ Hits The Bullseye For Action

Chris Hewitt St. Paul Pioneer Press
 

Man, is “Broken Arrow” loud.

Loudness and speed are key elements of this wildly entertaining adventure, and the plot - a psycho pilot (John Travolta) swipes two nuclear missiles and holds them for ransom - hardly matters. All you need to know is that there’s a bad guy and a good guy, and they spend the whole movie chasing after each other.

“Broken Arrow” was made by the inventive action director from Hong Kong, John Woo. He’s crafted some high-voltage, ear-ringing thrills, including a fist-fight on a speeding train, an awesome underground explosion and a scene shot from a helicopter propellor’s-eye view as it comes perilously close to slicing someone in half. In addition, Woo has overseen the development of a nifty airplane for Travolta - sleek and matte black, it looks like a really happenin’ stereo component that can also go 1,000 miles an hour.

Travolta is outstanding. “Broken Arrow” boils down to a variation on “Speed,” with Christian Slater in the Keanu Reeves role and Samantha Mathis as Sandra Bullock. But Travolta doesn’t Hopper it - he doesn’t overdo the leering wisecracks and hissed threats (“Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapon?” he says calmly, between clenched teeth). Travolta gives a cool, daring waltz of a performance, occasionally shifting into a jitterbug of psychotic fury (he “dances” to the accompaniment of a pumped-up Hans Zimmer score, which includes a wacky Duane Eddy guitar riff).

In “Broken Arrow,” the villain role is the larger and more charismatic one, but Slater is fine as the flyboy trying to trim Travolta’s sails. The cast’s only weak link is Mathis, a pert park ranger who doesn’t seem to have much going on in her observation tower. Mathis is supposed to be a resourceful ally for Slater, but her airy voice suggests a girl on furlough from the Babysitters Club.

It’s not Mathis’ fault that she also figures in the movie’s dippy “romance” and in its big plot leap. One minute, she’s being held captive; the next minute, she’s free, and we never learn what happened in between. Clearly, a scene was snipped to make the movie tighter (it’s still 10 minutes longer than it needs to be).

Luckily, “Broken Arrow” manages to recover from its bumpy middle section, and who’s gonna see it because they want good dialogue or romance, anyway? What we want are thrills and spills and, on that score, “Broken Arrow” hits the target.

MEMO: These 2 sidebars appeared with the story: 1. “BROKEN ARROW” Location: East Sprague, Newport and Showboat cinemas Credits: Directed by John Woo; starring John Travolta, Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis Running time: 2:03 Rating: R

2. OTHER VIEWS Philip Wuntch/Dallas Morning News: John Woo directs the way John Travolta dances. Both their styles are athletic yet seductive, with strong visual flourishes and an irrepressible sense of self-indulgence. In Woo’s action-packed “Broken Arrow,” Travolta never dances - but he never stands still, either. He’s busy running, punching, kicking, shooting, torching and threatening to nuke much of the United States. He’s a villain, yes, but a villain with elan. Similarly, “Broken Arrow” is an action flick of incredible stylishness. Michael H. Price/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Travolta is practically the entire show, however, and Slater generously underplays to allow the villain to hold sway. Travolta makes that toothy grin of his more menacing than any scowl, and as the character slips by degrees from meanness to madness, he triggers a love-to-hate-him response that few customers can resist.

These 2 sidebars appeared with the story: 1. “BROKEN ARROW” Location: East Sprague, Newport and Showboat cinemas Credits: Directed by John Woo; starring John Travolta, Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis Running time: 2:03 Rating: R

2. OTHER VIEWS Philip Wuntch/Dallas Morning News: John Woo directs the way John Travolta dances. Both their styles are athletic yet seductive, with strong visual flourishes and an irrepressible sense of self-indulgence. In Woo’s action-packed “Broken Arrow,” Travolta never dances - but he never stands still, either. He’s busy running, punching, kicking, shooting, torching and threatening to nuke much of the United States. He’s a villain, yes, but a villain with elan. Similarly, “Broken Arrow” is an action flick of incredible stylishness. Michael H. Price/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Travolta is practically the entire show, however, and Slater generously underplays to allow the villain to hold sway. Travolta makes that toothy grin of his more menacing than any scowl, and as the character slips by degrees from meanness to madness, he triggers a love-to-hate-him response that few customers can resist.

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