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"Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons?"—Vic Deakins
USAF pilot Major Vic "Deak" Deakins (John Travolta) steals a nuclear weapon to ransom back to the U.S. He steals two, and detonates one underground to prove he's not afraid to detonate it. His partner Captain Riley Hale (Christian Slater) and Park Ranger Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis) team-up to stop Deak. The term "Broken Arrow" is US military jargon for a nuclear weapons accident. This is actually an "Empty Quiver" made to look like one.
Ignoring the Jean-Claude Van Damme Ego Trip that was Hard Target, this film was western cinema's first proper introduction to John Woo's Heroic Bloodshed genre of film, the popularity of which is cemented one year later in 1997 by Face Off, also by John Woo and starring John Travolta.
- Actor Allusion - This isn't the first time that Slater and Mathis have teamed up.
- Ax Crazy - Vic Deakins.
- Bond Villain Stupidity - A major complaint in Roger Ebert's review.
- Bottomless Magazines - Hale fires maybe 40 rounds out of a 13 shot pistol and 6 round revolver in the mine shoot out with out reloading once.
- Also averted early in the movie. When Hale first gets the revolver, he fires six shots at the helicopter and has to ask Terry for more bullets.
- Car Fu - "Run him down!"
- Expy: Giles is one for the Alec Baldwin portrayal of Jack Ryan.
- Empty Quiver - The Title Drop is the former Trope Namer.
- False Friend: Deakins and Hale seem like the best of friends, but after Deak turns traitor, he reveals he considers Hale a coward and shows not even the slightest hesitation in trying to kill him.
- Faux Affably Evil- Deak. He's a chipper bastard.
- Genius Bruiser - Terry nearly bites off more than she can chew by trying to sneak-attack a mook in Nerd Glasses and a lab coat.
"You probably thought I was some science nerd! I was a Navy SEAL, lady! You should see what I can do with just my thumb!"
- Guns Akimbo - Briefly featured in the ferocious battle within the copper-mines.
- Gun Fu
- Hoist by His Own Petard - Deak hilariously and literally gets hit by the nuke he intended to slaughter innocent millions with. It doesn't detonate, though.
- Heroic Bloodshed - Liberally crossed with the western.
- Honor Before Reason - Hale has Deak (who was out of bullets) at gunpoint. Deak has his hand on the detonator button. Instead of prolonging the Mexican Standoff, Deak ordered Hale to put it down then challenged him to a fist fight.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy - Deak's Mooks are shooting at Riley and Terry while they flee in a boxcar. With an open door. That's made of wood slats.
- It Gets Easier - Sort of:
Vic Deakins: I just realized something. I never actually killed anyone before. I mean, I dropped bombs on Baghdad, but, uh... never face to face. [Beat] I don't know what the big deal is. I really don't.
- It Works Better with Bullets - Terry pulls this one on Hale during their Mexican Standoff. She's lying, as she demonstrates after she's wrested the gun back from him.
- Large Ham - John Travolta is having the time of his life with Deak.
- Made of Iron - Almost the entire cast, with one exception. Kelly hurts his hand hitting the side of a tunnel while shooting at a helicopter, and clearly gives a shout of pain. Kinda surprising, considering that Kelly is played by Howie Long, who played pro football for over 10 years, and would be the cast member with the highest tolerance to pain.
- Mexican Standoff - Hale with a gun, and Terry with a knife.
- Lampshaded by Hale: "This isn't a standoff, lady, I've got the gun!" Terry counters that she never keeps it loaded.
- Also, Hale and Deak with the shotgun and remote detonator.
- Lampshaded with Hale pointing a gun at one of Deak's men who in turn is pointing a gun at Terry, and when Hale tells him to stop the Humvee they're in, the guy says "Looks like we have a standoff." Hale's response? Shoots him in the leg and slams him headfirst into the steering wheel while shouting "No! We! Don't!"
- A villainous one happens between Kelly and Deak.
- New Old West
- Not with the Safety On, You Won't - Terry Carmichael successfully pulls this on Hale.
- Pants-Positive Safety - Terry hides a gun within her pants.
- Pin Pulling Teeth - One of Deak's mooks does this due to one of his arms being all shot to hell.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Hale gives one to Deakins.
Hale: I know why you did it.
Deakins: Oh really. Why did I do it?
Hale: Maybe it was because you kept getting passed over for promotion. Maybe it was because everyone was cashing in and you wanted to get in on it. I don’t fucking know! You’re no different than a guy shooting up a playground. You got a head full of bad wiring!
Deakins: What did you say?
Hale: I said you’re fucked in the head, Deak!
- Stop Helping Me! - As the page quote attests to, Deak would very much like for you to stop shooting at the thermonuclear weapons.
- Stuff Blowing Up
- The Dragon - Kelly.
- The Paragon Always Rebels
- Short-Lived Aerial Escape - No less than four helicopters get totaled in this film!!
- Unresolved Sexual Tension - Riley/Terry
- Villainous Breakdown - Deak lets a few swears fly when Hale steals the nukes back.
- Verbal Tic - Hale likes to bet $20.
- Xanatos Gambit - Deak has two back-up plans. One, he knows an Air Force commando team will be sent in to secure the warhead so he buys off one of the members. Two, in case someone finds the bomb, he has planted a Salt Lake City radiology tag in the Hummer with it to make everyone think he's taking it east instead of west.
- The Western - Albeit a "Techno-Western"
- You're Crazy! - Riley to Deak?
Deak: Yeah. Ain't it cool?