What I Watched Last Night: Broken Arrow (1996)

Director: John Woo

Cast: John Travolta, Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis, Bob Gunton


Broken Arrow: ‘A class 4 strategic theatre emergency’; aka: Someone’s nicked a nuke.
The introductory scene of John Woo’s aptly titled Broken Arrow (like all faulty projectiles, it strikes nowhere near the target) finds Capt. Riley Hale (Christian Slater) and Maj. Vic Deakins (John Travolta) repeatedly punching one another’s unguarded faces in the boxing ring. Blow for blow, it continues until one of them falls over. This scene is as far as the character development goes for these lazily traced military caricatures, and it sums up what the film is ‘a-bout’ as a whole: Broken Arrow is just one long slog of a John McClane/Jack Ryan imitating punch in the face. ‘Do you know what it feels like to be knocked out?’, demands Travolta, unwittingly inflicting the answer to his own question through his reliably brain-dwindling delivery.


Travolta’s character deals in nuclear arms and – being sure to make a show of it – puts out lit cigarettes with a twist of his thumb and forefinger – Lawrence of A-radtion-bia? ‘The trick, William Potter, is not minding that you’re a terrible over-actor’.

Broken Arrow features a pair of rival fighter pilots (woozy back and forth ‘banter’ included) but this alone does not a Top Gun make; as for the action, it isn’t even fit to share a Blockbuster ‘Everything Must Go’ bucket with Tony Scott’s aerial trailblazer. Having barely concealed his genocidal intentions behind the benign mask of the mentor, Travolta’s Maj. Vic makes a move on Slater’s unsuspecting cockpit co-inhabitant while on a routine flying mission, depositing their warhead payload for his mercenary contacts in the Utah flatlands. Slater’s Hale parachutes to safety, but an arbitrary auto-detonate time limit means he must locate, defuse and extract the nukes before the world’s butterfly population is wiped out.


Broken Arrow is a terrible, hackneyed, half-assed nukes ‘n’ planes pile of piss. Someone should have phoned in a (Tom)Cruise missile on this production long before it made it to cinema screens… or in this case, the Movie Mix channel.

One comment

  1. It’s dumb, but it’s John Woo. Can’t say I expected much else differently. Good review.

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