Antoine Fuqua's follow-up to 2001's TRAINING DAY packs plenty of explosive action which begins about halfway through the movie after a somewhat slow setup period. Once the action starts though, the bullets fly out of those guns faster that than I fly out of JoBlo's house when he waves an Adam Sandler DVD in front of my face! The second half of the film basically consists of constant firefights featuring the stone-faced Willis and his crew and even though Willis pretty much cashes in an easy paycheck, his charming mug somehow gets you to care. Care about what, you ask? Well, probably not as much for him as for his crew, who he leads into a messy situation that gets worse by the second. It's unfortunate that the movie got off to such a slow start as its half-assed effort to "convey a message" in order to justify it as more than just an action film will eventually detract certain viewers. If you take it as a shoot 'em up flick, you can sit back and enjoy.
As far as the cast is concerned, there needn't be any worry about any big miscues. The screenplay is pretty simple and straightforward (some would say formulaic, but I digress) and pretty much anyone who can hold a gun in his hands could have been parachuted into this one. Nevertheless, Willis' squad, made up of Cole Hauser (2 FAST FURIOUS, WHITE OLEANDER) and Eamonn Walker (OZ) among others was quite engaging, unlike the token refugees who followed them around and whom we learned practically nothing about nor given any reason to give a hoot for. To package it all up, this is an entertaining film with very little depth, lots of bullets and a beautiful woman. Perfect for a late night rental.
Full length commentary track with director Antoine Fuqua: This is a pretty average track in which Fuqua tries to convince viewers that his film is somewhat of a tribute to the suffering of the African people. Mostly, it's a basic action flick which happens to be set in Africa. Get real Antoine...I hope Denzel didn't convince you to take everything overly seriously, in which case you should become as boring as he is within a matter of months.
Full length commentary track with writers Alex Lasker and Patrick Cirillo: Predictably, these two men analyze the film mainly from a story and screenplay point of view. This screenplay has actually been going around for over a decade and interestingly enough (maybe even intentionally), it was released as a feature during an escalation of tribal violence in Nigeria. Coincidence? Yes...of course...
Africa Fact Track: This track displays information on the screen about the film, the actors, the story, the actual events in Africa and so on. It's very complete and very constant so there's lot of reading to do. It can be listened to during the commentary tracks which is an added bonus.
Journey to Safety: The Making of Tears of the Sun: Filled with cast and crew interviews as well as some background on the story, this is a 15-minute long studio featurette that contains the basic elements of any such thing: actors praising each others, actors praising the director, actors talking about how touched they are by African wars, director praising actors, director talking about how touched he is touched by African wars and so on and so forth. *yawn*.
Voices of Africa: This is actually pretty original. This feature contains eight quick interviews with Africans from different countries talking about the way war has affected them or their families. Infinitely more effective than the film itself in conveying the message.
Deleted Scenes: Eight deleted scenes with various degrees of relevance to the movie. None of them will really make you wish they'd been left in, but as with most deleted scenes on any DVD, they're addictive to watch for some reason.
Interactive Map of Africa: Here's yet another feature on this DVD aimed at convincing you that this film will awaken one and all to the horrors of the continent. Here's yet another feature on this DVD that fails at convincing you that this film will awaken one and all to the horrors of the continent. It's a map of Africa out of which you can select certain regions in order to get more info about the troubles going on there. For those who rely on DVD features to get their updates about current world affairs, it might strike a chord. For the rest, it won't.
The trailer is also included.