Broken Arrow (1996)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Broken Arrow</strong> (1996)

(Second Viewing, on DVD, February 2011) I hadn’t seen Broken Arrow since its opening weekend in theatres, but I’m not really surprised to see that it has held up so well as an action film.  The mid-to-late nineties had some fantastic examples of the form (Speed, The Rock, Face/Off, etc.) and Broken Arrow still holds the distinction of being one of John Woo’s better American features.  Structured around a script by Graham Yost, Broken Arrow features a pleasant mixture of military technology, criminal activity and all-out action indulgence.  Christian Slater is forgettable as the hero and baby-faced Samatha Matthis looks completely lost as an action heroine, but John Travolta steals the show as a charismatic scenery-chewing villain, coolly charming as a killer with the best dialogue in the entire film.  (From the seminal “Ain’t it cool?” (dot-com) to the clenched-teeth “Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons?”)  Planes, helicopters, trucks and trains are all destroyed along the way, but the clarity of the film’s action sequences still holds up as a fine example of the genre, especially after the erosion of action filmmaking during the last overly-edited decade.  Here, every shot seems meaningful, and we get to appreciate both pending dangers and minute developments.  A few of the night-time effect shots look dated, but the rest is still technically impressive.  Broken Arrow doesn’t make too much sense and definitely feels contrived, but it still carries an action-packed charge with a smile and presents B-grade action films as they should be more often.  The 2010 DVD re-release, sadly, is not even enhanced for widescreen TVs and offers no other features than the trailer –a real shame considering the documentary material available to a logistics-heavy action film.

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