There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
You can plop Bruce Willis anywhere, even on an asteroid, and he’ll save the world. In Tears of the Sun, set amid a roughly sketched-in Nigerian civil war, the conflict is typically twofold: Tight-lipped but secretly good-hearted Lt. A.K. Waters (Willis in his unsmirky mode) must oppose bloodthirsty foreigners as well as callous American authorities. Waters, whose men call him simply “L.T.,” and a squad of Navy SEALs are dropped into a guerrilla-infested jungle to rescue four Westerners, including American doctor Lena Kendricks. (It’s explained that the doc got her citizenship and surname through marriage, so the part can be played by Italian-accented Monica Bellucci.) Capt. Rhodes (Tom Skerritt) orders L.T. to rescue only foreign nationals, and our hero is willing to follow that directive for, oh, about 30 minutes. But after witnessing the horrors of one ethnic-cleansing incident, he adopts Kendricks’ alternate plan, putting the weakest of the doctor’s charges on the helicopter sent to evacuate Kendricks and his own men. Then he leads the SEALs, the doctor, and about 70 refugees toward the Cameroon border. Before they get there, however, L.T. and his men realize they’re being followed by a large contingent of Nigerian soldiers, presaging the movie’s climactic firefight. Although director Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua shot in the safety of Hawaii, he manages a convincingly grim evocation of an African civil war, both with actual news footage and a long sequence of the SEALs intervening in a tribal massacre. What’s not believable is scripters Alex Lasker and Patrick Cirillo’s fantasy of an America that always does the right thing, even when commanded otherwise: L.T.’s gunboat humanitarianism is no more plausible than Kendricks’ never-smudged lipstick. Yet Tears of the Sun regularly applauds the U.S. soldiers’ innate decency, saluting it with a concluding quotation from Edmund Burke and not one but two scenes in which Kendricks and the African refugees are reduced to being an appreciative audience for the Yanks’ valor. Hans Zimmer’s Afro-orch-pop score, by the way, features such exemplars of Afrobeat as Lisa Gerrard and Andreas Vollenweider. Mark Jenkins