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Click for full sized poster

Tears of the Sun

Starring Bruce Willis and Monica Bellucci
Screenplay by Alex Lasker & Patrick Cirillo
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
website: www.sonypictures.com

IN SHORT: a dud. [Rated R for strong War Violence, Some Brutality and Language. 120 minutes]

You know what you expect in a Bruce Willis actionflick. We sure do. We also had high expectations when that action is set in a war zone. Strip the production of any emotion whatsoever and what's left in the can is a big time disappointment.

Lest anyone confuse the two, Tears of the Sun is a fictional "send in the Marines" story -- in this case the team is of Navy SEALS. Led by Lt. A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis) the soldiers are dispatched by their commanding officer, Captain Bill Rhodes (Tom Skerritt), to Nigeria to retrieve Dr. Lena Kendricks (Monica Bellucci), a priest and two nuns. That African country has just suffered a military coup d'etat led by the -- do we have to say it? -- despicable, evil and murderous Colonel Idris Sadick (Malick Bowens). The American-by-marriage doctor is, apparently, in danger. The screenplay doesn't get any deeper than that.

With a whole lot of soldiers to keep track of, Tears of the Sun fails to make the determination as to which are the faceless grunts and which are the faces we should remember. Perhaps that's the way it is in war, where the uniforms are a soldier's ID, but movie audiences only have two hours to make connections. Here are the members of the SEALS team: "Red" (Cole Hauser) "Zee" (Eamonn Walker) "Slo" (Nick Chinlund) "Silk" (Charles Ingram) "Doc" (Paul Francis) "Flea" (Chad Smith). Small routines in the story allow us to place three of the five, but when the final live or die battle scene hit the screen, we didn't really care which of 'em bit the dust. That might be just fine for military statisticians but not for those of us in the audience.

It isn't clear why one small group of doctors is of such vital importance that we must send in the Navy. The bigger story in this film is one of "humanity." The slaughter and torture inflicted upon the native citizens by their rulers is, apparently, something that has more to do with tribal warfare than political unrest. Our soldiers disobey direct orders and march a group of natives towards the border to save them from government troops that are tracking them down at a furious pace. Doing the right thing is, as far as we're concerned, the right thing. Stripping all emotion from those actions doesn't yield a story that is compelling and exciting.

Tears of the Sun tries to have it both ways as it attempts to mix the politics of the modern world with that of traditional African tribes. The big surprise that is buried deep in the Second Act would provide reason enough if anyone in a decision making capacity knew of it before the "go" order was given. But it wasn't. None of the natives stand out, either, which robs the mawkish tear filled eyes filled with gratitude sequences at the film's end of any emotional power. We're not spilling anything storywise that our audience had not already discounted. The crowd all around us was so distanced by the generic suffering and fleeing scenes in the film that they were breaking into laughter as the ending came ever closer. It all comes across as cheap theatrics.

To be fair, there was scattered applause when the climactic battle had run its course. Lots of cool looking explosions will usually get that kind of result.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Tears of the Sun, he would have paid . . .

$3.00

Rent.

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