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Remember Bruce Willis No 1? Back in his Moonlighting days, when he was punting out a chirpy, devil-may-care persona in dreck like Blind Date? What about Willis No 2 - post-Die Hard, when he was still keeping up he quip count but replacing happy-go-lucky with sarky-go-cynical?
Well, we're now deep into the era of Willis No 3. These days Brucie's chunky, baldy features are a granite mask of deep-set seriousness. He still shoots bad guys, but he does it with a simmering, humour-free certainty bordering on rage.
In Tears Of The Sun Bruce doesn't get beyond a meagre, monosyllabic grunt until 15 minutes in, when he tells beautiful, jungle-stranded doctor Monica Bellucci that he and his Navy SEAL team have to evacuate her from a refugee camp in war-torn Africa. Willis No 1 would have been all over lovely Bellucci in a matter of seconds, overwhelming her with smart-arse wisecracks. But when Bellucci says she isn't going anywhere without her flock of injured patients, Willis No 3 looks set to slap her silly.
Dragging the wounded through the forest, dodging enemy patrols and arguing with his superior officers, Willis is slowly supposed to come to care for his charges. It doesn't work. You could see Willis No 2 with his grudging, world-weary air warming to them, but Willis No 3? He'd need a serious thermonuclear event to warm up to anyone. His dialogue says, "I'm growing to like these people", but the stone-cold eyes say, "I'm dangerously pissed off."
Training Day helmer Antoine Fuqua lays on the Africana with a brickie's trowel - the soundtrack is awash with world music rhythms - but Willis' John Wayne-style pragmatism means the men-on-a-mission stuff always swamps the touchy-feely subtext. When Tears Of The Sun embraces the former in a sweaty-palmed, all-guns-blazing climax, the film finally, finally takes off. It's just a shame you have to wait so long for it.
Tears Of The Sun has a few moments of adreno-overload but it couldn't hit the emotional target with a smart bomb. Less Three Kings 2, more Wild Geese 3.
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