We've all played the game in our heads. We hear the "Mastermind" theme and imagine what our specialist subject will be. I've always had a few ideas kicking around in my head. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Die Hard and Jurassic Park are films I've seen a tom of times and would be able to rattle off answers no problem. But they're far too common. So I've gone for something a bit leftfield. It's a film I've seen more than anyone really should have, but I just love it too much. It is 1996's Broken Arrow starring John Travolta and Christian Slater.
This was John Woo's second film since making the leap to the States after 1993's Hard Target starring Jean Claude Van Damme. That film is another guilty pleasure, but doesn't have a patch on this one. Conversely, Face/Off is arguably a better movie, but again this film has more charm to it.
Take the opening scene. In it we see a sparring match between Vic Deakins (Travolta) and Riley Hale (Slater) - you've got to love 90s action hero names. Rather than some lame exposition, we see the two communicate while sparring which gives us insight into the type of relationship they have. Deakins is clearly trying to groom Hale into being his equal, but Hale is the rebellious type and has his own style. The fight itself foreshadows whats to come in the film, and ends with an awesome shot of the two touching gloves, which signifies the end of their match, but can also be seen as the start of the "match" in the context of the movie.
We do end up with a bit of exposition while the two are flying with the live nukes, whereby it's established that Deakins is pissed off with the Air Force, and betrays Hale by giving him the genius "evil John Travolta look", backed by Hans Zimmer's incredible score (more on that later). There's hijinx in the desert as the two play tug of war with a nuclear bomb, with Hale being helped by Samantha Mathis' spunky sidekick Terry Carmichael and Deakins being backed up by his team of generic henchmen led by square haired Howie Long.
Woo's direction is spot on, as always. His use of slo-motion and two handed gunplay has been done to death, but in the mid 90s it was still refreshing and new. The film flies along at a frantic pace, as our heroes go from one inventive gunfight to the next, before reaching the cargo train based finale, where once again Deakins and Hale go mano-a-mano with more at stake than just the $20 they were sparring for at the start.
For all the stupidly enjoyable things in this movie, two things stand out more than any other. The first is the aforementioned Hans Zimmer score, which utilizes some of his usual tricks augmented with some electronic elements, but it's the piece that features Duane Eddy's playing a motif on baritone guitar that sticks in the memory. This, paired with the second memorable element in John Travolta's gloriously OTT performance makes for some great movie moments, and if not for this film who knows what Harry Knowles would have called aintitcoolnews.com?
So there you have it. I don't want people to think I'm not taking this topic seriously. I really love this film. I mean, I could have done The Godfather or any number of films that have been written about ad nauseam, but what can I say that hasn't been said before. With "Broken Arrow" it's a chance to revisit an underrated 90s action flick. Which my mother happens to love. If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is.
- Kevin Dillon
Kevin writes reviews of new DVDs/Blu Rays to rent, along with the occasional feature for his own blog www.smallscreensaver.blogspot.ie. You can also follow Kevin on Twitter here.