Picks and Pans Review: Broken Arrow

updated 02/19/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/19/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

John Travolta, Christian Slater

It's strange enough to find Travolta in this sort of hardware action picture, full of exploding choppers and jeeps. Stranger still, he's the villain, an Air Force major who deliberately downs his top-secret fighter plane and then tries to make off with its nuclear warheads. (Object: blackmail.) This major is the sort of adrenaline-loving sadist who can't resist upping the ante, even if the result is incineration in a mushroom cloud. Informed that his latest gambit borders on insanity, he responds, "Yeah. Ain't it cool?"

Travolta has squeezed out all his natural charm and turned his handsome smile into a crocodile's grin. But there doesn't seem to be anything left in his performance. His anger never seems potentially ballistic. More often, he appears merely to be put out, as if he were disappointed with room service. That would make Slater, as a pilot out to thwart the conspiracy, the bellhop. He has virtually no presence.

The explosions and crashes, as directed by John Woo, are all thumpingly good. (R)

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