John Woos first Hollywood film, Hard Target (1993) with Jean-Claude Van Damme, showed signs of mainstream compromise and, while critically trashed, was still a worthwhile film in the patented Woo style. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Broken Arrow, Woos second Hollywood film. It appears that here Woo has been given the same mega-size budget that the likes of James Cameron, Renny Harlin, Stephen Sommers et al regularly command whereupon he promptly uses it to make the same sort of mindless action spectacle that is exactly what his Hong Kongese films werent. Broken Arrow is undeniably spectacular there are amazing death-defying train and vehicle chases, wild fights and shootouts. Woo seems to have included a helicopter crash every few minutes. However, the constant spectacular insistence of it all becomes wearying. Unfortunately, Woos style has disappeared under the size of the production. There are occasional moments where patented Woo-isms pop up one being the initial encounter between Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis, which involves a Mexican stand-off using a gun and a knife, but the feeling here is more like the patented Woo-isms have slipped into self-parody.
Broken Arrow also stars John Travolta. At the time, John Travolta was riding in the midst of one of the rare opportunities of the acting profession a second lease of stardom, granted to him after the smash acclaim of Pulp Fiction (1994). Pulp Fiction allowed Travolta to forever shuck teenybop roles and instead typecast him as a chic intellectual gangster. It also allowed Travolta the opportunity to prove he really could act. Alas, his villainy here is played with a series of mannerisms that have a theatrical obviousness that verge on the campy. Travolta is all posturing psychotic villainy ready to explode at hair-trigger notice. The silliness of his performance is somewhat eclipsed by Jack Thompsons brief but truly horrendous turn as a starsnstriper general.
Broken Arrow features a script from Graham Yost who previously wrote the runaway hit Speed (1994) and would go onto write Hard Rain (1998), Mission to Mars (2000) and write/produce the From the Earth to the Moon (1997) tv series about the Apollo space program. Broken Arrow is not as brainless a film as Speed was it never escalates to the level of Speeds ridiculously impossible happenings. It does feature what appears to be a central facet of Graham Yosts work the male and female leads who are thrown together in the midst of action and survive utterly improbable odds to the end.
John Woos subsequent films were Face/Off (1997) and Mission: Impossible II (2000), both of which are of genre interest, the non-genre war film Windtalkers (2002) and the Philip K. Dick adaptation Paycheck (2003), before he returned to China to make the period war films Red Cliff Part I (2008) and Red Cliff Part II (2009). Woo also directed the tv pilot The Robinsons: Lost in Space (2004) and has produced Western Wu Xia film Bulletproof Monk (2003), the anime Appleseed Ex Machina (2007) and the Wu Xia Reign of Assassins (2010).