Civil war is tearing Nigeria in two. Without warning, the country's president is overthrown by infidels, who assassinate the deposed leader along with his immediate family. Amidst the political upheaval, our government orders a U.S. Navy SEAL platoon led by Lt. A.K. Waters (Willis) to infiltrate the African jungles and extract Dr. Lena Kendricks (Monica Bellucci) and her assistants.
Trouble arises when Kendricks refuses to leave without her walking wounded, so Waters begrudgingly commits to evacuating an entire army of villagers. En route to their designated extraction point, Waters realizes his group is being pursued by a guerrilla faction that seeks something valuable in Kendricks' possession.
Tears benefits from a claustrophobic jungle setting and a slew of credible roadblocks placed in the path to freedom. Most evident, though, is Fuqua's growth as both a filmmaker and storyteller since his hackneyed attempts at action-drama in the subpar Bait and The Replacement Killers. Instead of rapid and choppy jiggle cuts, Fuqua settles Tears into a deliberate groove, allowing drama to manifest itself from an intentionally slowed pace.
A public bombarded daily by the promise of war will be interested in the glance Tears provides into our military in action. Waters and his troops brandish night vision goggles, high-tech communication devices, and weapons the size of walking sticks. For all its mechanical trappings, Tears stands taller than muscle pictures of late for its insight into the military mindset and the goal of completing the mission, regardless of the costs.
Then there's Willis, who earns his paycheck by redefining the hero genre once again. Waters is a first-class soldier who surrounds himself with better men. His troops aren't wholly defined, but they aren't cardboard cutouts, either. They question their commander's decisions when appropriate, though they're just as quick to reinforce their loyalty to the mission. Tears tries but can't avoid the melodramatic hero mumbo-jumbo forever, and when Willis' boys club becomes the focal point of the film, the fiery Bellucci and her faceless patients take a necessary backseat to the action.
All told, Fuqua has crafted one of the better military missions of the last 10 years. He squeezes real tension out of creative but familiar scenarios. His war movie clichés are set aside until the final act, when guns blaze and heroes defy miraculous odds. For the first time in a long time, though, the terse, violent confrontations seemed necessary before a cap could be put on this compelling tale.
The DVD features an army of extras, including a commentary from Fuqua, a pop-up trivia subtitle track, and a mini-commentary from the writers. There's also a lot of information about Africa -- including an interactive map of Nigeria and interviews with African people about recent atrocities. Fifteen or so minutes of deleted scenes round out the disc.
Tear gas in the sun.
Run time: 121 mins
In Theaters: Friday 7th March 2003
Box Office USA: $43.4M
Box Office Worldwide: $85.6M
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures, Revolution Studios, Cheyenne Enterprises, Michael Lobell Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 50 Rotten: 100
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Bruce Willis as Lieutenant A.K. Waters, Monica Bellucci as Dr. Lena Fiore Kendricks, Cole Hauser as James 'Red' Atkins, Eamonn Walker as Ellis 'Zee' Pettigrew, Johnny Messner as Kelly Lake, Nick Chinlund as Michael 'Slo' Slowenski, Charles Ingram as Demetrius 'Silk' Owens, Paul Francis as Danny 'Doc' Kelley, Chad Smith as Jason 'Flea' Mabry, Tom Skerritt as Captain Bill Rhodes, Malick Bowens as Colonel Idris Sadick, Awaovieyi Agie as Musa, Akosua Busia as Patience, Ida Onyango as Lasana, Benjamin Ochieng as Colonel Emanuel Okeze