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Broken Arrow
  • Composed by Hans Zimmer
  • La-La Land Records / 2011 / 115:56

John Woo’s second Hollywood movie, Broken Arrow stars John Travolta and Christian Slater as two military pilots who end up pitted against each other once Travolta is revealed as a terrorist.  It’s an awful film, but it does feature a lot of explosions.  Woo’s previous Hollywood film (Hard Target) had a considerably more modest budget and a Graeme Revell score; this time round, the director turned to the coolest composer in town at the time, Hans Zimmer, already establishing himself as the go-to-guy for brainless action films.  The resulting score is considered by many to be one of the defining 1990s Media Ventures action scores.  The music is empty, vacuous, bordering on puerile – but then, so is the film, so that is not necessarily a failing.  What separates the good from the bad with these 90s-era action scores from Zimmer and his associates isn’t really anything to do with whether they’re empty, vacuous and bordering on puerile – I don’t think it’s particularly controversial to say that can almost be taken as a given – it’s how good the tunes are, and how many of them.

Broken Arrow is very much dominated by a single theme, eight notes long, played by the legendary Duane Eddy – it’s nice enough for what it is, no question; but this album is virtually two hours long, and to be honest those aforementioned adjectives very much come into play here (because of the album length) in a way they never do while listening to the albums of the considerably more substantial Backdraft or Crimson Tide, or even the more varied The Rock.  In the parts of this score other than that guitar theme, there is some action music which is quite good, cheesy fun (and, oddly, some parts based on Randy Edelman’s theme from Come See The Paradise, whose use is credited) – but it always sounds like a slightly more insipid version of something much better in one of those other three scores.  Apparently Zimmer was aiming to emulate Ennio Morricone in the score; I wonder if when he aims to get to the west coast he ends up in Massachusetts.  A well-arranged half hour of this could very easily be a guilty pleasure; two hours is absolute torture.  *

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  1. Mastadge (Reply) on Thursday 24 March, 2011 at 20:15

    Have you listened to the original album presentation? What did you think of that?

  2. James Southall (Reply) on Thursday 24 March, 2011 at 20:19

    I bought it in 1996 and I think it was the very first CD I ever traded away (also in 1996). My tastes have broadened considerably since then and I’ve ended up re-buying (and loving) several CDs I got rid of around that time; sadly this one looks like it wasn’t a mistake! Do you like Broken Arrow?

  3. Mastadge (Reply) on Thursday 24 March, 2011 at 20:27

    I rarely listen to it. It is, along with Drop Zone, one of Zimmer’s 90s action scores that many seem to love but don’t really do a whole lot for me. (I also don’t love Crimson Tide, but for different reasons.) I’ve probably listened to Broken Arrow four or five times over the years, Drop Zone maybe twice. Broken Arrow doesn’t bother me, it’s moderately fun, but not fun enough, clearly, to inspire me to return to it often. I’d been wondering whether the decompressed LLL edition would offer new insight into the music, but after this review I think I’ll continue to stick with The Peacemaker and The Rock when I need mid-90s Zimmer-style action.

  4. Hasta (Reply) on Saturday 30 April, 2011 at 19:16

    James you crazy fool

  5. James Southall (Reply) on Saturday 30 April, 2011 at 19:35

    Jason, is that you?!

  6. Hasta (Reply) on Monday 2 May, 2011 at 17:02

    ’tis my friend. ’tis

    glad to see you’re still writing great reviews brother

  7. purple rain (Reply) on Friday 29 January, 2016 at 15:57

    One of Zimmer’s finest… I can’t believe this review…