"Extended Director's Cuts" can work in one of two (positive) ways; they can make a good movie even better -- or they can make a bad movie a little bit more watchable. I was hoping that the latter would be the case regarding Tears of the Sun and its Extended Edition DVD, because I remember seeing Tears of the Sun during its original theatrical run. And, despite my pigheaded admiration for nearly all things Bruce Willis-related, I found the movie a huge screaming bore of a war flick with a big plate of pretentiousness on the side.
Stop me when this premise sounds unique: A group of amazingly bad-ass Navy Seal soldiers are given a mission - head into Nigeria and rescue a doctor. So they do. Only the doctor won't leave without all her villagers. So the soldiers say no. But then they say OK. And then everyone starts a conga-line of potential carnage as they trek through the African jungle while avoiding the savage stooges of the local tribal warlord.
But the helicopters can only hold so many of the villagers. So it's time for a second walk through the wild, and this time the bad guys are really pissed off because the soldiers kicked some warlord stooge booty back at the last village.
And on and on. If you want to break things down into numbers, try these: 65 minutes go by before any worthwhile "action" happens in this action movie. 2 is the number of exciting action sequences that occur in Tears of the Sun, one of which is the finalé. And 1 is the number of soldiers who actually have personalities beyond that of a cardboard target, and that soldier is the one played by Bruce Willis.
"But," I can hear the Sun supporters saying, "this is not an action movie! It's a stark and sincere portrayal of the wartime atrocities that still happen today in Africa" To which I'd humbly respond: "No, it's not." Tears of the Sun is the most standard-issue sort of "rescue mission" war movie, only it's injected with a shiny coat of "present-day hot-button topicality." If Tears of the Sun were a movie that was seriously interested in delving into topics like modern-day genocide, political coups, and the tragic state of Africa's feudal system ... it wouldn't star Monica Bellucci's cleavage and it would offer more than just the most cursory glances towards real life events.
And since we've already established that I'm what's known as a "Bruce Willis fan," try not to dismiss my own personal criticisms of this movie as something spat out by someone who can't enjoy "mindless action." If Tears of the Sun had just admitted its own mindlessness, I wouldn't be so dismissive of the flick. For his part, Willis just glooms and glowers through the movie, stopping occasionally to garble above a whisper. I get that Bruce is meant to be playing a sincere and stoic soldier-man, but all I saw was a sweaty robot who looks a lot like Bruce Willis.
And let's not even get started on Monica Bellucci, a woman who is both A) amazingly gorgeous, and B) a seriously good actress ... most of the time. Suffice to say that her performance in Tears of the Sun is as jarring and grating as the actress is woefully miscast in her role.
Tears of the Sun is as deep as Schwarzenegger's Commando; it just borrowed something from a recent headline to add an air of credibility to what's essentially a gung-ho guys & guns movie. By the time Tears of the Sun rolls to a close with its unending speeches about "Africa always living in Monica Bellucci's heart," you'll find yourself wishing there were time for just one more bazooka explosion.
Video: Widescreen (2.40:1) Anamorphic all the way, and the movie sure does look great, which is a compliment to cinematographer Mauro Fiore and the DVD transfer itself.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English only), and the aural display is just like you'll find on all the new-fangled war movies. Turn it up loud, flick your speakers on, and prepare to annoy your neighbors. Optional subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and French.
So how does one figure out what the "new stuff" is on a movie like this? I saw Tears of the Sun during its original theatrical run, and even at 118 minutes, I couldn't wait for the end credits to show up. But putting aside my own measly opinion, how do I let people know what they'll find in the "Extended Director's Cut" that they haven't seen before? You do a little research! And I'm fairly certain that the only scenes that were "put back in" to Tears of the Sun ... are the exact same deleted scenes that were offered on the previous DVD release. Kinda pointless if you ask me.
There are also three other extra features that are ported over from the first DVD: a 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette entitled "Journey to Safety: The Making of Tears of the Sun," which is your standard "we're making a brilliant film" sort of EPK material; Voices of Africa, which is 20 minutes worth of interviews with African citizens that might be a whole lot more engaging if we could understand what all the participants were saying (no offense meant to the interview subjects, of course, but the ones who speak English have some really strong accents!); and an Interactive Map of Africa, which is actually an interactive map of Nigeria.
OK, so I didn't dig the movie. Fine. But let's just break this down on a purely DVD level. What you're getting in the "Extended Director's Edition" is a movie that's made a little bit longer by way of a handful deleted scenes that you probably already own ... and a trio of extra features that are also on the earlier DVD. But when you realize that the first DVD also offers two audio commentaries, a "fact track," and some theatrical trailers -- you're actually double-dipping a DVD that offers less material than the first dip did! I've seen some tacky re-release tactics in my time, but this is one for the record books.
So to those of you who absolutely adored the deleted scenes from the first Tears of the Sun DVD and silently offered to give away the three commentary tracks just to have those scenes re-inserted back into the feature film, please consider this "Extended" cut a must-own. To everyone else, I say skip it.