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When a B-3 Stealth Bomber crashes in the Utah desert during a top-secret test run, the military quickly moves in to retrieve its two "broken arrows." But the situation spins wildly out of control after one of the pilots reveals the crash to be part of an incredible nuclear extortion plot.
Broken arrow is a military term for a nuclear warhead that has been stolen — and villainous Air Force pilot Vic Deakins has done just that. In fact, he's pilfered TWO bombs, in an effort to extract a huge amount of cash from the government in exchange for their safe return. However, there's a fly in the ambitious ointment: Riley Hale, Vic's former co-pilot, whom Vic thought he had killed when he robbed the bombs. Helping Riley is gusty female Park Ranger Terry Charmichael. Together the duo uses all the artillery, ammo, vehicles, and gumption they can muster, as they risk life and limb to thwart Vic and his vile gang.
For more about Broken Arrow and the Broken Arrow Blu-ray release, see Broken Arrow Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 17, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: John Travolta, Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis, Delroy Lindo, Bob Gunton, Frank Whaley
Director: John Woo
» See full cast & crew
Broken Arrow Blu-ray Review
Classic Woo translates into a so-so Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 17, 2010
I don't know what's scarier...losing nuclear weapons, or that it happens so often there's actually a term for it.
Hong Kong Action filmmaker extraordinaire John Woo (Face/Off) takes his second spin around the American movie landscape with Broken Arrow, a solid but not exceptional Action/Thriller starring John Travolta (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) and Christian Slater (Hard Rain) that tackles the question -- and with an abundance of unrealistic but thrilling action pieces -- as to what might happen should a rogue Air Force officer attempt to profit on the theft of a nuclear device under his command. Known for his panache and way around an Action movie, Woo injects Broken Arrow with plenty of his trademark visuals that gives the picture a bigger, grander feel, even if the material itself doesn't really pass muster as anything more than capable of delivering a quality if not somewhat tonally generic Action film. Still, in classic Woo style, the director manages to make the ordinary somewhat extraordinary, Broken Arrow some 14 years after its theatrical release still a guilty pleasure sort of movie with a high replay value and an even higher fun factor, both of which make it a successful, but not quite classic, Action movie.
Captain Riley Hale (Slater) and Major Vic Deakins (Travolta) are pilots in the U.S. Air Force and are tasked with taking a B-3 Stealth Bomber -- with a payload of two live nuclear warheads -- into the skies over the American West as part of a war games exercise to test the aircraft's limits and the enemy's ability to track it in stealth mode while carrying its deadly payload. In the air, Deakins initiates a struggle with Hale for command of the craft, ultimately ejecting him and soon thereafter dropping the disarmed nukes into the Utah desert where a team of commandos and a civilian named Pritchett (Bob Gunton, The Shawshank Redemption), who has financed the mission and hopes to profit further from its successful completion, await the warheads and, with Deakins' help, plan to blackmail the U.S. government into buying the devices back at substantial cost. Unfortunately for Deakins, a surviving Hale proves a formidable opponent, throwing a wrench into each step of Deakins' plan as the two face off in the barren desert and with the lives of thousands of civilians at stake. With the help of a perky park ranger named Terry (Samantha Mathis, The Punisher), Hale must work quickly to defeat Deakins' strategic genius and his heavily-armed goons that make a desperate and urgent fight seem like an impossibly difficult task.
Broken Arrow is another film with absolutely nothing to offer below its explosive surface, but that doesn't make it irrelevant cinema. While the film is constructed around an intriguing but ultimately simple idea and coated with gunfire, explosions, slow-motion movements, and plenty of menacing glances and glares, John Woo makes the film credible within the realm of straight Action movies by delivering the goods people want to see out of a movie like this, the director cranking up the violence and toning down most everything else in the name of sheer excitement and thrills. Broken Arrow and films like it don't aim for the lowest common denominator, but they don't strive for cinematic perfection or deep thematic, emotional, or psychological relevance, either. John Woo is a master craftsman of action-as-art, and while Broken Arrow isn't of the same caliber as his Hong Kong/Chow Yun-Fat/Hard Boiled and The Killer days, it's a better-than-serviceable genre picture that would make for a good introductory piece to the director's style considering the movie's straightforward approach and a scale that's not quite as imposing as some of his better works overseas or, more relevant to American audiences, the more grandiose Face/Off. Indeed, most of Woo's hallmark visual techniques and eye for slick action visuals are here in moderate doses, but absent is the more operatic feel of his bigger movies.
Amidst the barrage of gunfire, big explosions, and Woo's slow-motion, in-tight, ballet-style action is a cast that seems to be enjoying the straight action formula the picture delivers and playing their parts with an over-the-top prowess that injects some added fun and eases the burden of what is otherwise almost two hours of nonstop violence. Structurally, the dynamics between the Slater and Travolta characters are nicely realized and developed in short order. Their boxing match that serves as the picture's open establishes both characters' emotional traits, mental perspectives, and physical strengths quickly and efficiently, and even though it clearly telegraphs how the film will end -- only those viewers for whom Broken Arrow is their first jaunt into the wonderful realm of movie magic will find surprise at the story's full-circle approach -- it does its job as an expository sequence well enough while also opening the movie with some hard-hitting action. Slater and Travolta both turn in acceptable performances, the latter in particular delivering a deliciously devious effort that showcases the character as something of an in-control and cool psychopath who demands the spotlight and rejects any notion that he's anything less than a master of his craft and of his domain. On the flip side, Slater turns in a typical effort, infusing some very light humor with his competent skills as an actor and, more relevant here, as a leading action star. Slater's never going to be mistaken for one of his generation's finest, but he again proves in Broken Arrow that he's as dependable as they come and guaranteed to add a spark to any role he's in. Broken Arrow is also something of a milestone in ex-NFL star Howie Long's short-lived acting career, this being his first major part in an Action film before he would star in the critically-drubbed Firestorm, the picture that was to propel him into the future as a top leading Action man in Hollywood, a dream that never materialized.
Broken Arrow Blu-ray, Video Quality
20th Century Fox sends Broken Arrow onto Blu-ray with a 1080p, MPEG-2 encoded, 2.35:1-framed transfer. A fairly stable image but not at all visually stunning, the picture reflects its drab earth-toned surroundings, delivering little in the way of excess color but providing just enough contrast to allow for a fine film-like image in the context of the picture's bland appearance. Detail is a bit flat throughout; even roughly-textured rock and canyon faces and the harsh terrain of the Utah desert floor don't offer much in the way of rich, lifelike detailing, nor do any other objects such as clothing, vehicles, or weapons. Faces lack much beyond basic definition, but the transfer does retain a layer of film grain that gives it an honest cinematic texture and helps make an ordinary transfer just a bit more respectable in presentation. Additionally, the image isn't too terribly littered with excess dirt and debris, though slight banding makes an entrance in a few select shots. Blacks fluctuate between a deep and dark shade and appearing excessively bright, but flesh tones maintain a neutral shade and with only a hint of excess coloration throughout. Broken Arrow looks just fine on the surface, but videophiles won't be wowed by this presentation.
Broken Arrow Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Broken Arrow zooms onto Blu-ray with a structurally sound but not-quite-perfect DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. No doubt this one rocks the soundstage on more than one occasion and tosses sonic goodness hither, thither, and yon, but it lacks the pinpoint clarity of superior lossless tracks. That's not to say that this soundtrack isn't a particularly fun and wild ride; indeed, Broken Arrow delivers almost everything a listener could hope for in an Action movie soundtrack extraordinaire, the mix often wreaking havoc with powerful sound effects and hefty bass that defines the film's sonic signature. Whether low-flying jet aircraft, buzzing helicopters, or speeding trains, sound effects swoop through the listening area and traverse the entire speaker configuration throughout the picture with a noticeable ease and an exacting sense of direction. Ambient effects in the desert atmosphere add some realism to the picture but never quite manage to create a wholly-convincing 360-degree environment. Nevertheless, Broken Arrow ensures that the subwoofer gets quite the workout with a fairly constant barrage of low-end goodness, and small arms fire -- whether the rattling of an automatic rifle or the repeated thuds of Terry's service revolver -- packs quite the punch and should satisfy listeners craving a quality Action movie listen. Rounded out dialogue that, save for a couple of scenes where it plays as slightly unconvincing and detached, comes across clearly enough, Broken Arrow's Blu-ray lossless soundtrack delivers a hearty and healthy but not quite exemplary listen.
Broken Arrow Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
All that's included is the Broken Arrow theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:28); D-Box functionality; and additional 1080p trailers for Alien vs. Predator, Chain Reaction, Commando, Phone Booth, and Planet of the Apes.
Broken Arrow Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Broken Arrow makes for a good primer into the world of John Woo, and more importantly, it holds up years after its release as a trusty standby Action movie that never seems to lose much of its luster and makes for one of those good "anytime" movies when mindless entertainment done right fits the mood and satisfies the need to get the adrenaline pumping and give the sound system a decent workout. Packed with gunfire and explosions and a completely linear plot with no subtexts or thematic undertones to worry about, Action fans can rest assured that Broken Arrow delivers the goods and nothing but the goods, and considering the film also throws in a few decent performances for good measure, it's no wonder that it's held up as a consistently dependable Action movie since 1996. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release of Broken Arrow delivers good but slightly underwhelming visual and aural presentations, but the disc is unfortunately absent any substantive extras. Considering the disc's low price, fans would be wise to add this one to their Blu-ray collections, but fence-sitters would be better served to give it a rent and hope for a re-issue somewhere down the line.
Broken Arrow: Other Editions
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