It’s Movie Time: Broken Arrow (1996)

As always, Spoiler Alert.

Broken Arrow as a movie means nothing to me. If I’ve ever seen it before, it had so little impact that … well … that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it before. I know it more for its routinely successful classic Canadian earworm implantation from Robbie Robertson every time I see the DVD sitting on the shelf, than for the movie itself.

It’s a John Woo movie, which means unlimited ammo, only a nodding acquaintance with physics, and cheesy dialogue of the Sometimes You Scare Me Sometimes I Scare Myself variety. It’s also hampered by its casting, what with starring John Travolta in the depths of his Uncanny Valley phase, Howie Long’s mere existence onscreen, and constantly expecting the Secretary of Defense to call someone a dumbass.

On the flip side, Christian Slater is as charmingly sneery as always, and there’s little in this world more glorious than Delroy Lindo delivering awful dialogue and pulling it off. Bright spots like these offset the general terribleness just enough to make Broken Arrow what Ron and I refer to as a ‘good heckle movie.’ Those are the ones we spend laughing and shouting at the screen while asking each other why the idiot characters don’t just (insert obvious course of action here).

There was one surprisingly sobering moment, though. The titular broken arrow is not one, but two, stolen nuclear warheads, and at one point, there’s a scene with a military briefing, in which the effects of a detonation on American soil are discussed. The scene includes an image of a blast radius, something that, as a child of the Cold War era, gave me a momentary chill.

I remember when I was still single digits in age, my mother explaining to me that if the U.S. and Russia went to war, the nuclear bombs would be launched over the North Pole and sail over Canada towards their targets. I had nightmares about that for years, and would regularly scan the sky for missiles, afraid that one would crash and detonate nearby. Another Cold War era child, my friend Liane was born in the U.S., near a major population centre that would most certainly have been a target in a nuclear war. She once told me about a local newspaper publishing a blast radius graph superimposed over a map of the area.

Interestingly, we both came to the same conclusion as a result of the news we heard – that it would be best to get taken out in the first wave. My plan was to generally hope that the bomb landed directly on my head, but she intended, if the news came that the missiles were on the way, to actively head towards the epicentre. She’s not sure exactly how she planned to get there – maybe on her bike? – but the fact that, at such a young age, we were actively thinking about ways to not survive is evidence of just how messed up a time it was.

In the more ordinary scheme of things, Broken Arrow is also pretty messed up, and hardly worth the time it takes to watch it. If you ever get the urge to, I’d suggest you listen to some Robbie Robertson instead.

To see other posts in my venture to watch my movie collection in alphabetical(ish) order, click here.

5 Thoughts

  1. I’m a child of the cold war too. And looking at the diagram you have there, everyone in my area knew that the star in the middle meant the Pentagon. This was such a well-known thing that the snack bar in the center of the courtyard in the center of the Pentagon was always known as “ground zero”. And my childhood home was about nine miles away from that point. We would have been outside of the blast radius, unless they missed. But that map doesn’t show the radiation levels, and fallout, so we’d have definitely been screwed from those.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That bit about the snack bar is amazing! I grew up near Ottawa, so once the U.S. and Russia got through lobbing bombs at each other and moved on to other countries, I knew we’d be on the list. But I was far enough away (30-35km), that I knew it was likely I’d survive the initial blast and die a slow death instead. I didn’t like that at all. To this day, I still can’t watch movies/TV that have anything to do with radiation poisoning.

      Liked by 1 person

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