Friday, April 05, 2002

Tears Of The Sun, or On Bad Movies

This is one of the worst movies ever made. Not only is it bad, but it falls into that worst of traps where it's not even entertainingly, Showgirls/Species 2 bad. It's just a terrible, terrible movie.

Here's what happens about 20 minutes into Tears Of The Sun: the Baddies are closing in on Bruce Willis and his Team of Lifeless Cliches, and they pass through the village where Bruce and his Team of Lifeless Cliches have been. The priest has elected to remain in this village, tending the people Bruce couldn't take with him. The baddies have the priest on his knees, and a muscular fellow has the machete poised over his head. The head baddie narrows his mean-looking eyes and the machete swoops down and there's a big noise and we cut to BIRDS FLYING OUT OF A FUCKING TREE, and as if this weren't terrible enough, one of Bruce's Lifeless Cliches hears the birds flying away, and goes, "what was that?"

Here's what happens about half an hour before the end of Tears Of The Sun: Bruce has broken a whole bunch of rules that Tom Skerritt told him not to break then went, "oh well, if you feel like you gotta..." Bruce has his Team of Lifeless Cliches gathered about him, and he asks their Lifeless Cliched opinions on whether they're happy to keep on breaking the rules. After they're done expressing their opinions ("well, you are Bruce, and these guys sure are oppressed"), Bruce and his Black American Lifeless Cliche share a moment. Bruce looks to BALC for his approval. BALC says - this is what he says - "These Africans - they're my people too. You're doing the right thing".

I mean really, people. Fucking seriously.

I've been trying to get my head around this whole bad movie phenomenon. My take is that most Bad Movies - as in, movies that tank, or that are a critical bomb, or movies that the vast majority say of them, "that there, that's a bad movie", they're just misunderstood. Somewhere, thought they were making a movie they weren't, and thusly it became a confused, misguided effort in God only knows what. Yer Hudson Hawk, yer Last Action Hero - well, everyone knows how I feel about The Last Action Hero - it's grossly misunderstood and underrated. These aren't terrible movies. These are just movies that someone tried to make something out of that they weren't - a huge blockbuster (if I told you to go see The Object of Beauty, and of course you hadn't heard of it, because it's this wack little movie, and you rented it, but for some reason Hudson Hawk was in the case instead, but you watched that anyway having heard nothing about it, you'd like it just fine. It's only if I told you to go rent Die Hard but they gave you Hudson Hawk instead that you'd be dissapointed), or a kids' movie, or an Arnie Action Pic. These are movies, people, that are bound by the conventions of genre film, and because they don't give us that old genre hit in a slightly different shade, we hate them for it.

But we ought to get over that, because funny little movies that start as one thing and end up as another aren't the problem here. Hell, even Showgirls is an entertaining, funny piece of exploitation. If Showgirls had a poster that said, this is dumb blond girls doing silly stuff that might make your dick hard, Showgirls would be regarded as a qualitative success. (Showgirls made about $10m less than it cost. That's what we call a flop. But that was in 1996, within one year of release - well encompassing the time that matters to execs, to be sure, but well before the subsequent repackaging and rerelease as an Ed Wood-styled misguided masterpiece of camp. I'm no Griffin Mill here, but frankly, I'd be surprised to learn that Showgirls hadn't, at time of writing, broken even). Really bad movies are those that set out to do or be something established, stick within a genre (Last Action Hero flies wildly outside the borders of whatever genre you try to put it in; even Verhoeven thought he was doing something new) and fuck it up totally.

No, scratch that, what's terrible about Tears Of The Sun isn't that it wants to be The Deer Hunter Platoon Casualties Of War Saving Private Ryan Heaven And Earth Apocalypse Now blah blah et cetera. What's wrong with Tears Of The Sun is that it arrogantly thinks that if it plays all the right notes, it'll have a symphony, where said notes, when played by the virtuosos who first played them, were parts of decidedly unconventional pieces (apart from Private Ryan, which was rubbish), here working in the service of an exercise in formula. And, most grievously and, it's done with zero life, an empty, hollow, computer-aided exercise in gun-fetishism that employs actors only so people can say dumb shit while they shoot people.

Fuck it, I don't know why Tears Of The Sun is worse than any other bad movie you care to name. It just is. This is one of the only movies ever that actually made me regret the 2 hours it stole from me. It's a terrible, terrible movie, and I make it a practice to forget that the whole fucking sorry mess every happened, and I'll thank you to do the same.

(Oh, and here's what never happens in Tears Of The Sun: anyone makes any reference, however muffled or convoluted, to what the stupid-ass title might mean).

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