Broken Arrow (1996)

“When the day comes we have to go to war against Utah, we’re really going to kick ass, y’know?”

Justin’s Rating: So THIS is why Slater turned to the dark side!

Justin’s Review: For his second American motion picture, John Woo hunkered down and went, “Hm, why not rope together a couple of washed-up has-been actors, and give them one of the silliest plots of all time? Let’s call it, Die Hard In A Utah National Park. Sweet!”

With all due respect to the man who cornered the market on men shooting not one, but two entirely separate guns at the same time, they were not the boldest first steps onto our shores. The end result of Broken Arrow was a movie that you not only had to switch off your brain to enjoy, but also to pluck it from your skull and toss it behind the couch for a good couple of hours.

Speaking of Die Hard, there’s an action movie I can respect, and I’ll tell you why. The filmmakers actually put serious thought into the setup of the bad guy’s plan, taking us step by step through it until we accepted that it could possibly be done. They built the evil plan up, threw in a good guy, and had him tear it down while the bad guys raced to see if they could keep their scheme going.

This falls in stark contrast to action jetsam like Broken Arrow, which don’t even bother to explain or think out the bad guy’s setup. They just wing the situation at the audience and the hero, expect all of us to take it on faith, and then let the pygmy Christian Slater go to town like a rabid chuhuahua. It may look cool and spiffy on the surface, but like a cult that poisons its snack beverages at the weekly hoedowns, you get into a lot of trouble asking the “why?” and “how?” questions.

The thought of a villain making off with a couple of nukes and then holding the country for ransom is, if not original, something we can grasp as “bad” and run with. However, the setup here is so completely ludicrous as to make you blink in astonishment when nobody bothers to try to hold it up on shaky exposition — really, there’s none at all. We’re supposed to blindly swallow that a rogue air force pilot has planned in advance (somehow) the hijacking of two nuclear bombs off a $2 billion bomber. Nevermind that there’s no way (at least explained on screen) that he could’ve known he was going to be carrying nukes that day; nevermind that a $2 billion bomber with stealth capabilities is worth a lot more than the ransom from a couple nukes – and they could just stealth it wherever they pleased, WITH the bombs; nevermind that the whole plan boils down to “I’m going to try to shoot my co-pilot, throw out the missiles in the middle of the Utah Badlands, and hope I don’t overshoot my comrades by 300 miles. Then, I’ll eject, hope I don’t die in a gully somewhere, scoop up my nukes, evade the military — which had the whole crash on radar — and smuggle the warheads to Denver on a train. In the bright light of day, no less.”

I just couldn’t take anything from this movie seriously — after all, we’re expected to find Howie Long menacing instead of a guy who’d start crying if we stepped down hard on his big toe. I think it’s no coincidence that this was the last time that Christian Slater got a serious starring role (and, no, Alone in the Dark doesn’t count).

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