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Tears of the Sun

Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Tom Skerritt
By Saibal Chatterjee | PTI, **
UPDATED ON MAY 08, 2003 08:04 PM IST

Get out of the way. Or join the fray. What you choose to do as a member of the audience will depend entirely on whose side you are: a bunch of battered and bloodied African victims of an unstoppable civil war or a platoon of uncompromising and heroic Americans. Even if you are the kind who can root for both, you might still find the flashing machine funs, the blood-spattered bodies and the patriotic pulp a bit hard to digest.

Tears of the Sun, directed by Antoine Fuqua of Training Day, is another of those horribly messy, ridiculously facile and brazenly propagandist action-adventure films that would have you believe in the power and goodness of the US. Bruce 'Die Hard' Willis leads from the front, but what dies first in this simplistic thriller is sense.

Magnificent American soldiers march into a God-forsaken part of the world, grapple with a moral dilemma between the call of duty and the pulls of humanity - that's the closest the film gets to being of any dramatic interest -- and then proceed to save a war-torn land and its people from annihilation. Give us a break…

This time around, the action is set in the jungles of Nigeria, from where a squadron of American globocops has to rescue a bunch of hapless refugees and an amply endowed medic who works among them. The ruler of Nigeria is overthrown in a military putsch and the evil, bloodthirsty rebels - the film loses no opportunity to establish that they belong to a "Muslim" tribe - mow down village after village.

Navy Seal lieutenant A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis) is sent in with his troops with express orders to rescue "a doctor, a priest and two nuns". The doc in question, Lena Kendricks (Monica Bellucci), an American by marriage, refuses to accompany her rescuers unless they do something about her patients. An exasperated Waters first tries to trick the pretty physician into following him out of the war zone but then gives in to her entreaties when he sees for himself the brutality unleashed by the malevolent rebels on innocent villagers and a Catholic church.

Tears of the Sun strives to be an action film with a conscience, throwing in bleeding heart passages that are obviously designed to bring Platoon and The Killing Fields back to mind, but in essence it remains a silly old attempt to defend, even extol, the US of A's near-psychotic efforts to play global policeman whether the rest of the world wants it or not.

For Bruce Willis, this is a role he has done on umpteen occasions in the past. He looks disinterested, if not completely jaded, and one can't blame him, can we? You can't blame the lovely Monica Bellucci either for not trying hard enough to act. She simply can't. 

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