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Tears of the Sun (2003)

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Bruce Willis is dynamite as Lieut. A.K. Waters, a hardened Navy Seal sent into the bowels of the Nigerian jungle with his band of not-so-merry men to extricate -- his superiors say 'rescue' -- Dr. Lena Kendricks (Monica Bellucci) from a Catholic mission and makeshift hospital in the path of the murderous rebel forces. Waters has a big problem. She doesn't want to leave -- not if it means leaving the villagers behind. They have come to regard her as family. The feeling is mutual. Only a few people can fit on the chopper at the LZ. So Waters must decide. Will he complete his mission as ordered by forcing Kendricks to board the chopper at gunpoint? Or will it be women and children first, by air, with Waters leading Dr. Kendricks and the rest of her people by land through the dense jungle beyond Nigeria's border with possible torture by the death squads hunting them as their only other option?

Tears of the Sun (2003) -- Bruce Willis

Well... this is a Bruce Willis movie. What do you think Waters will do? Chances are, your first guess is right. And as long as director Antoine Fuqua sticks to the action, "Tears of the Sun" is a suspenseful edge-of-your-seat war thriller. The first two thirds is peppered with some grisly images that speak for themselves. I'll spare you the details. They are meant to shock and often do. Yet, I never felt the slice and dice moments were exploitative. If anything, they further dramatized the plight of a people caught in the crosshairs of warring factions. The story begins to lose its credibility when a missing heir to the throne scenario is introduced. The bad propagandistic dialogue about doing the right thing that slowly seeps in between the action scenes doesn't help either. It only serves as an excuse for Waters and his commanding officer (Tom Skerritt), who is calling the shots from an aircraft carrier, to thrash each other over the airwaves. If Antoine Fuqua and scenarists Alex Lasker and Patrick Cirillo had not been tempted to turn "Tears of the Sun" into a message movie, it might have survived the B movie conventions that came to dominate the last third of the story.

Tears of the Sun (2003) -- Bruce Willis and Monica Bellucci

If you want to see some classics that could easily have been the inspiration for "Tears of the Sun," I suggest you check out two classics that take place in two different time periods with the same story line directed by the same director, Raoul Walsh. The first is "Objective Burma" with Errol Flynn. The second is "Distant Drums," a Southern-Western with Gary Cooper. It takes place in the in the Everglades of Florida. -- Rating: $8.00 (for the action and pyrotechnics; $2.00 for the corny dialogue)

The two films directed by Raoul Walsh that may have inspired the basic plot line for "Tears in the Sun":

Objective Burma -- parachute

"Objective Burma" (1945) -- Errol Flynn and his men are parachuted behind enemy lines in WWII Burma to wipe out a key outpost, then escape through the jungle. A must for any action fan with Flynn in top form.

Distant Drums -- Gary Cooper

"Distant Drums" (1951) -- Gary Cooper leads a band of Swampfighters through the Everglades to squash an uprising by the Seminole Indians and then escape. A mysterious woman who joins the band could easily have served as a prototype for one of the lesser -- but pivotal -- characters in "Tears of the Sun."

The one that put Anton Fuqua on the map

Training Day -- shootout

"Training Day" (2001) -- A snappy script by David Ayer and the bravura Oscar winning performance by Denzel Washington elevated the B movie conventions of this good cop gone bad thriller with Ethan Hawke as a semi -- clueless trainee set up as his fall guy. Wildly entertaining.

Greg Murray -- copyright 2003

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