Broken Arrow (John Woo)

Rating: ** (out of ****)

"I don't see what the big deal is...I really don't." John Travolta speaks this line after killing a man in Broken Arrow; it also happens to encapsulate my own feelings about Travolta as an actor. Everybody's been doling out the superlatives since he re-emerged eighteen months ago in Pulp Fiction, and while I don't think he's given a bad performance of late, he hasn't much excited me, either. Here, as an egomaniacal villain threatening to detonate a nuclear warhead, he's no more than serviceable, though I was pleased to hear him put a non-Travolta spin on several of his lines (he seems to have been studying Nic Cage). The film itself is as stupid and tedious as most Hollywood action flicks, with Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis as wholly uninteresting protagonists blatantly lifted from Speed (both that film and this one were written by Graham Yost). This is the sort of movie in which the Bad Guys pause to deliver a cute quip before pulling the trigger, giving the Heroes time to think. This is the sort of movie in which all of the bad one-liners from reel one are repeated with an "ironic" twist in reel six. Big dumb action movies can be exhilarating when made with flairand verve -- look at the original Die Hard, for example -- but Broken Arrow feels like it's on autopilot. Coming from John Woo, whose Hong Kong films are many times more thrilling, humane, and (yes) profound, it's a particular disappointment.