Don't Play It Again

"Tears of the Sun" is being sold as a kicka-- Bruce Willis action flick, but the highfalutin (and meaningless) title suggests it has loftier intentions. It's set in Nigeria against a background of ethnic cleansing; Willis, commanding a Navy SEAL unit, is sent into the jungle to rescue U.S. citizen Dr. Lena Hendricks (Monica Bellucci) before she and her fellow missionaries are slaughtered by anti-Christian rebels. The good and gorgeous doctor refuses to go without her patients. The gruff, by-the-book commander pretends to agree, betrays her and then gets one of those pangs of conscience that have afflicted hard-nosed heroes ever since Rick stumbled into Casablanca. "I broke my own rule," he mutters. "I started to give a s--t." The script, by Alex Lasker and Patrick Cirillo, never misses a chance to spell things out for us.

The movie's noble aspirations are clear--Bosnia and Rwanda were obviously on the filmmakers' minds--yet it's hopelessly steeped in stale Hollywood action conventions. Director Antoine Fuqua, who did well with "Training Day," flip-flops here between slaughter and solemnity, and his unvarying adagio pace only gives the cliches more time to expose themselves. And just now "Tears of the Sun" plays shamelessly into the hands of the Iraq war hawks, down to the on-screen Edmund Burke quote that ends the film: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Was this what the filmmakers had in mind when they started?