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"Tears of the Sun"

Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Written by Alex Lasker and Patrick Cirillo.
Starring Bruce Willis, Cole Hauser and Monica Bellucci.
Release Year:  2003 

Review Date:  3/10/03 

For the record, Rai “The Only Black Man in San Diego” Wilson is the true genius behind the now-copyrighted term “Kung Fu-Tang”, describing the ghetto chopsocky films like “Cradle 2 the Grave” being mass-produced by the Hollywood machine.  Although Rai has never responded to a Bellview before this, he apparently reads them, since four minutes after I sent out that review, his fiancée Nik “The Fist” Jordan called me out on the error.  Hey, I admit it when I’m wrong, so there!


Okay, you got me--I’m a pretty big Bruce Willis fan.  And, unlike the other action heroes of the late 80s and early 90s, Bruce’s films have not taken too much of a dive as he approaches his 50th birthday, although he has diversified the portfolio by staying away from gun-heavy action fantasies that categorized his early movie career.  (Of course, by signing on for the 4th “Die Hard” project due late next year, he knows that he’s still got a family to feed!)  “Hart’s War” was serviceable, “The Sixth Sense” was a good career move, and “The Fifth Element” is still a great film to watch every time it is on TV.

In “Tears of the Sun”, Willis stays close to the nest that nurtured him early on--it’s back to guns and glory in this new action-drama from Antoine Fuqua, who also directed “The Replacement Killers” (with Chow Yun-Fat) and “Training Day.”  Lt. Waters (Willis), a Navy SEAL-type officer stationed off the African coast, is assigned to go into Nigerian territory to retrieve an American doctor (Monica Bellucci, upcoming in “The Matrix” sequels) and return her to an American aircraft carrier.  That sounds easy until Waters lands in Nigeria and the doctor insists on taking all of her 48 patients with her...making the transport of 50 people instead of just one a nightmare for everyone involved.  Nigerian militiamen are hot on their tail, and these evildoers give Waters & Co. everything they can handle on their way back to neutral airspace.

Fuqua, a long-time commercial and music video director that crossed over with “The Replacement Killers”, does what he did with that film almost to a T--“Tears of the Sun” is never very boring, but never really breaks free of traditional warfare films like this.  There are mass ethnic cleansing executions committed by the Nigerian forces, and try as he might, Fuqua never really got me to break in watching these drawn-out sequences of terror.  It doesn’t help that Willis plays Waters as a career professional, emotionless for 75% of his screen time until he decides to become a nice guy and try to rescue the refugees from the camp.  His character, as written, is almost totally unapproachable (for both the good guys and the audience) and his team members are of the stock War Guys casting prototypes that normally appear in movies like this.

But, Fuqua has always staged action scenes well and “Tears of the Sun” is no exception--the final 30 minutes of the film are pretty exciting and I liked the tactics the team uses to try and extract the refugees.  Fuqua was also able to find some of the hardest-looking Nigerians in Hollywood (or, Hawaii, where the film was shot), so it is fun watching some of them get it in the end; Bellucci is interesting to look at as well, although I can’t really tell you why.  I don’t believe her to be all that attractive, but something about her presence makes her very watchable.  Tom Skerritt’s presence here is entertaining as well, mostly because whenever I saw him I could only think of his VERY similar part in “Top Gun”, so I kept imagining him yelling “Dammit, Maverick!” whenever he was onscreen.

Not bad.  Compared to the other films I have seen during Dogshit Week, this one is a revelation!

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09