Broken Arrow - * *

Explosive action film that doesn’t really go anywhere. Hong Kong veteran John Woo directs this yarn about two Air Force pilots. Christian Slater is good-natured Hale, and John Travolta is the psychotic Deakins, his partner and mentor. Deakins masterminds a plot to steal two nuclear warheads, and the only one who gets in his way is Hale. Hale, of course, does everything he can to keep Deakins from reducing Salt Lake City into a pile of radioactive slag. Both Slater and Travolta give servicable, if not particularly inspired, performances. Their respective sidekicks, Samantha Mathis and Howie Long, fare much worse. Long can be forgiven, he’s supposed to be playing a thug, so his incredibly stiff acting could be misinterpreted as inspired insight into a dense character. Mathis however is a disaster. Her Sandra Bullock-esque park ranger doesn’t merely annoy, she actively grates on the nerves. The true stars of action films, however, always boil down to the action sequences, and Broken Arrow does have its share of excitement. Director Woo manages to bring a zestful life to several sequences: the opening boxing scenes, and a series of encounters above, below and on the sides of a train. However, there is a sense of repetitive overkill, when not one, not two, not three, but four separate sequences feature an exploding helicopter. Some scenes border on the preposterous, and others simply don’t make much sense. Broken Arrow needed a stronger glue to hold together its good scenes, and a clearer vision to illuminate them.

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