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Broken Arrow

Fox // R // February 13, 2007
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Mitchell Hattaway | posted February 15, 2007 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:
A short while back I took John Woo to task for taking the wrong approach to Windtalkers. I'm about to do the same thing, albeit for different reasons.

Air Force pilots Major Vic Deakins (John Travolta) and Captain Riley Hale (Christian Slater) are buzzing around the Arizona desert in a stealth bomber when Deakins ejects Hale from the plane and crashes the aircraft. Their superiors begin operations to recover the nuclear missiles the bomber was carrying, unaware that Deakins dropped them shortly before he himself ejected. Deakins and his cohorts retrieve the missiles and remove the warheads, which they plan to detonate if the government does not fork over a substantial sum of money. Meanwhile, Hale and a tenacious park ranger named Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis) join forces in an effort to stop Deakins.

Broken Arrow is an incredibly dumb movie. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but no one involved makes any attempt to disguise the fact that it's incredibly dumb. Despite being directed by John Woo and featuring a pretty solid cats, this is about as paint-by-numbers as modern action movies get. Had it been given the proper treatment, it could have been mindless fun, but it instead ended up being simply another also-ran.

Writer Graham Yost (whose efforts here fuel the argument that Joss Whedon actually did most of the work on Speed) apparently cares nothing about logic or motivation; there's zero credibility here. Get this--Deakins and his cronies hatch a scheme to crash a billion dollar aircraft in the middle of the desert and steal a couple of nukes, but there's no indication as to who the other men involved in the plot are, how they devised the plan, or how they put everything in motion in less time than it takes to boil an egg. One minute Deakins and Hale are being given their orders, a couple of minutes later the bad guys are setting up operations in the desert. I know it's supposed to be a surprise that Deakins is up to no good (this despite the fact that every bit of advertising for the movie made it absolutely clear Travolta was the villain), so it would have been unwise to show him on the phone telling his buddies to get ready, but these guys are stealing nukes, not making dinner reservations, so the back-story needed to be addressed somewhere. Why the hell does Carmichael attempt to arrest Hale, who is fully decked out in his flight uniform, when she first sees him in the desert? What, has she seen Red Dawn one too many times? Or are we supposed to believe the Parks Department is unaware of these Air Force training runs? Even if the military is trying to keep it under wraps (yeah, okay), you've still got these massive bombers brushing treetops at subsonic speeds, so I'm pretty sure someone would have noticed. What's up with that EMP blast? It sure is selective in its effectiveness; anything truly necessary to the plot is completely unaffected. Why the hell does Hale keep telling Deakins what he's going to do next? Is that really the best way to outwit your opponent? And there's twenty bucks in it for anyone who can explain or justify Carmichael's sudden transformation into an acrobatic superwoman during the final act.

I don't think I've ever seen this many continuity errors in a movie. The timer on the warhead never counts down correctly. After emerging from a raging river, Hale and Carmichael dry off completely in about ten minutes (and Mathis's hair returns to being perfectly styled). Carmichael is carrying about ten rounds for her pistol, but Hale fires it about thirty times, only reloading once. The helicopter that attacks Hale and Carmichael is carrying two crewmen, but one of them disappears when Hale shoots it down. The train passes over the same bridge twice within thirty seconds. The list goes on and on.

Now here's the thing: none of the above would matter had Woo gone for broke. Thing is, his patented stylistics are nowhere to be found here. This movie could have been directed by anyone; there's really nothing here to indicate Woo was calling the shots. Where are the slow-motion shots? Where is the Peckinpah-esque editing? Where the hell are the doves? Woo admittedly was taken aback by the underwhelming response to Hard Target (and dismayed by its producers and star's hijacking of the final cut), which prompted him to dial things back considerably here. That wasn't a smart move. Broken Arrow cries out for bombast and excess. There's absolutely no substance here, so the only way to make it work is with style, of which there is very little. Sure, Woo handles everything competently, but he should leave competent to people like Jonathan Mostow. And he never should have cast Howie Long. Come on--Howie Long? Long does a pretty good job of ripping the doors off of that Humvee, but that's about it as far as his acting skills go (thank God the failure of Firestorm put the kibosh on his acting film career). And Mathis (in what came to be known as The Sandra Bullock Part) is in over her head here. Her role is underwritten and more than a bit unnecessary, and Mathis (who was a late-inning replacement for Helen Hunt, who bailed when Twister came along) simply doesn't have the presence to make the character matter (her butt looks nice in those ranger pants, though).


The 2.351:1 transfer is a definite improvement over the non-anamorphic job found on the old SD disc. Colors look considerably better, and the level of detail is far greater. Flesh tones look very natural. There's still a bit of noticeable noise in the nighttime flight/crash sequence. Fine grain is evident; it never becomes excessive, and it's certainly in keeping with the characteristics of the movie's Super 35 photography.

Although not quite up to the standards of more recent action flicks, the movie's decade-old soundtrack still performs quite well. Presented here in a lossless DTS HD 5.1 Audio track, the mix features first-rate dialogue reproduction, good surround action, and deep, rumbling bass (I still love the bit where the bomber knocks Mathis on her ass). Hans Zimmer's atypical score sounds excellent. The track isn't quite as active as it could have been, but so be it. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 options are also available, as are English, Spanish, Cantonese, and Korean subtitles.

Aside from the movie's theatrical trailer and several previews for other Fox Blu-ray releases, there's nothing in the way of extras.

And for anyone fortunate enough to have compatible equipment, the disc has been enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems.

Final Thoughts:
At the risk of repeating myself, unless you're a serious John Woo fanatic, you'll want to stay away from this one. And even if you are, the price tag and paltry extras will probably make you think twice about cracking open your wallet.

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