Tears Of The Sun (2003)

(In theaters, March 2003) Though Bruce Willis has been moving toward John Wayne territory for a while, this is the film that will solidify his image as the newest tough elder/actor/warrior. We’ve seen Willis in other movies, and here it doesn’t take much more than a moment to get a full grasp of his character’s professional weariness. That, in itself, works wonders to boost the believability of Tears Of The Sun, a war drama that may no be all that credible, but with such an earnest message it’s hard to pooh-pooh. Released scant weeks before the start of the Iraq War, this is a film that seems to espouse the “New American Century” party line of vigorous military intervention in face of atrocities. Is this reading too much politics in what should be an action movie? Hey, movies do not exist in a vacuum, and this is only truer in these troubled times. In case anyone misses the allusion during the film, it closes with the famous quote “the only thing required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Too bad that it’s so inconsistent in its execution: There is something wrong in seeing Monica Belluci’s carefully-sweaty cleavage featured in a film where mammary mutilation is used as a manipulative element. There is something weird in seeing an experienced military officer throw everything in jeopardy on flimsy motivations. There’s something incongruous in ending a dour military film with an orgy of fuel-air explosions. There’s something dumb is seeing someone make a phone call from the deck of an aircraft carrier as planes are leaving. There’s a lot to like in Tears Of The Sun (terrific combat sequences, lush cinematography, Bruce Willis and Monica Bellucci) but also a lot of elements that don’t fit in nearly as well. This isn’t a pleasant film, but its biggest mistake is that it still tried to be so.

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