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"Traitor"

Directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff.
Written by Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Steve Martin.
Starring Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Neal McDonough and Sad Taghmaoui.
Release Year:  2008

Review Date:  9/1/08

Folks--

"Traitor" showed up in theaters so quietly that I never even saw a trailer for it.  Not one, all summer long!  There was, however, a poster for the film at the theater I normally hit in Gaithersburg, so in wasting some time and money this weekend at the movie theater, I figured, why not give my man Don Cheadle a shot???

Well, "Traitor" is a mixed bag.  It's weird, really--you get Cheadle playing Samir Horn, a Sudan-born, U.S.-raised bomber who is captured in Yemen with other Middle Eastern terrorists and put in jail for what appears to be a life sentence.  You get a decent number of plot twists, Guy Pearce playing another American, Jeff Daniels in what can only be called a throwaway role, and a script co-written by Steve Martin...yes, THAT Steve Martin.

The whole thing adds up to a so-so time at the movies, though.  Cheadle brings his normal charisma to this very complicated part--in fact, I can't think off the top of my head of a more overwritten, complex character than his Horn, who in addition to the upbringing has a deeply religious background, a double-agent type thing going on, a conscience to not kill innocents but to let innocents die right in front of him, and at one point the option of going to prison for the rest of his life...and, taking it!  His character aside, though, the other aspects of this film are fairly run-of-the-mill, and if anyone besides Cheadle was playing this lead character, I think "Traitor" would have made for a long two-hour experience in the theater.

That's because Pearce is playing a fed who essentially is left with those funny operational scenes that feature people reacting to camera feeds, or reading Horn's incredible background profile, or interrogating suspects.  And, the terrorists here are not very interesting, and they are running what is quickly becoming the standard playbook for Middle Eastern terrorists in Hollywood films...I'll admit that our choices are limited these days.  All bad guys fall into the following categories:

  • Middle Eastern terrorists, the jihad, Muslims in general;

  • Yakuza, Asian gangs/terrorists in general;

  • Eastern Europeans, typically Russian types, although strangely, a number of these films are shot in the Czech Republic, since it's so cheap to operate there.

I kind of miss the Nazis in a way, but now, our new movie Nazi is a Muslim terrorist who has a major grudge against the American way of life.  Yawn.

"Traitor" isn't bad, but hey, it could use some work, too.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

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 bad...man, 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/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09