This grisly movie is an insult to the scale and the magic of the 30-foot screen.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Broken Arrow" is a missile aimed at people who fall in love with "Doom" during adolescence and fail to outgrow it. It is computerized violence at its worst, a video game elevated to the big screen. Without the interactivity of a game, it just hangs up there, one eternal explosion to dull the senses.

The credits say a lot about why this movie is deadly dull. Digital experts, miniature battle handlers, and model makers are no substitute for the imagination, cleverness, or surprise that fuel good thrillers like "Speed." When that one invited us, with a broad smile, to suspend logic and board the bus, we could hardly wait to enjoy the terror.

"Broken Arrow" opens and closes with a fistfight between Deakins (John Travolta) and his Air Force prot?g?, Hale (Christian Slater). The question looms: After being beaten to pulp the first time, has Hale learned enough since then to turn the tables?

The Air Force decides to explore low-level radiation fallout by sending Major Deakins and Sgt. Hale across the southwestern desert in a B-3 Stealth bomber loaded with two nuclear weapons "to see if anything glows." Flying a $2 billion plane 100 feet off the ground at 800 mph is a real kick until Deakins attacks Hale in a cockpit wrestling match that is his announcement that he is stealing the nuclear weapons for ransom.

From that point on, it's Deakins against Hale and his new buddy, earnest park ranger Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis), who is guarding "endangered dirt" at the very spot where Hale parachutes into the desert. Our good guys are chased across the barren landscape variously by an Air Force Hummer, a helicopter, and a train. Know this surely: anything that moves will be consumed, and all explosions will be fueled by gasoline.

Since the whole thing is a package of predictable special effects, the only fun lies in watching the actors. Christian Slater plays the penultimate Eagle Scout whose pores ooze honor and courage. He and Samantha Mathis are the most wholesome couple to survive an underground river in years. The fact that both Slater and John Travolta play their roles with tongues firmly planted in cheeks is the sole light touch in this heavy-handed mess.

Travolta is an appealingly twisted villain--posturing with his cigarette, smirking knowingly when he has been bested by Hale. He trained the youngster after all, and he has a certain pride in a job well done. But the teacher always has another fiery trick at the ready. Travolta, Slater, and Mathis actually infuse their paper-doll parts with real energy--with a whopping assist from stunt men and miniatures.

It's a 110-minute fireball, a cardboard battle that belongs on a CD-ROM. The cynical computerized abuse of human bodies implies a sickening assumption that brutality is an acceptable spectator sport. This grisly movie is an insult to the scale and the magic of the 30-foot screen.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : 20th Century Fox
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h50m

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