Broken Arrow

'Nobody does it better' (as the song goes) than John Woo, that is when it comes to this kind of action-packed , punch and kick 'em, shoot-to-kill 'em, nothing-will-stop-me, machismo-machine fantasy. Wonder when somebody's gonna get the idea to have him direct a James Bond; an obvious combination that may take the 'ingenuity' of some attentive producer to make the leap once the penny drops.

John Travolta as Deakins (subordinate officer despite his rank?) and Christian Slater as Hale (the conquering hero?) are the oddly paired couple charging around in their Top-Gun world. No wonder, although they are colleagues, that they turn out to be on different sides. Things go terribly wrong as they test run the top-secret B-3 Stealth bomber with a cargo of two nuclear warheads. (I must also admit that I was pleased to hear Travolta pronounce 'nuclear' correctly, considering how many others nowadays seem to prefer the mutated version 'nuke-u-ler.') Travolta's treachery reveals itself in mid-flight and the battle begins, which will continue both in the air and on the ground, until the lost nuclear weapon, referred to under the code name 'Broken Arrow,' is either recovered or detonated.

Without being presumptuous, let us put aside the plot consider the cast. Travolta, wooed by Woo's work, finally gave the nod to an action film, but considers this as a 'one-shot deal.' Christian Slater admits, on the other hand, 'I've been training all my life for a part like this.' Ex-Little Women star Samantha Mathis appears here in the role of Terry Carmichael, the desert version of a feminist whose tough independent nature never overshadows her equally natural solid vulnerability. (By the by, screenwriter Graham Yost, who constructed this rapid-fire romp, is the same man who put pen to page for Jan de Bont's Speed.) Football legend Howie Long debuts in the role of 'physically foreboding military officer.' Jack Thompson, the acclaimed Australian actor who has played many memorable roles, also appears briefly.

But let's face it, folks, the star of a John Woo film is John Woo himself. His action-packed visual style is choreographed and shot to keep moving fast from the first frame to the last. Woo, who began his career as a comedy specialist, switched to action-packed, violent, romantic works that broke Hong Kong box-office records. Hard Boiled brought him world-wide attention and added impetus to the Cult of Woo. His Hollywood exploits then got started with Hard Target, starring Jean-Claude van Damme, and need I say more? The man still manages to keep some humor built into his latest films.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett