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Don Cheadle plays against type in Traitor

Another Attack

Traitor is faithful to its well-worn mold

September 2, 2008, 12:00 am
Another mediocre Hollywood movie tackles the terrorism thing, illuminates almost nothing, gets seen by almost no one, entrenches (for the dozen or so who do see it) stereotypes while it purports to combat them, reeks of nervous liberal guilt and, in the end, plays like an extended version of 24? You better believe it.

Still, it is fitting that, following Barack Obama’s coronation as the first black, major party nominee for president of the United States, an equally, nay, more important event transpires.

From the malls of California to the megaplexes of Connecticut; from the theaters of New York to the ones right here in New Mexico; in movie houses across this great land we witness the first black actor to play a practicing Muslim who is also an undercover government spy and who infiltrates a terrorist sleeper cell.

What’s that? You say that exact character has already been done on Showtime’s Sleeper Cell? Damn. OK, fine then, Traitor is redundant in every possible way.

Traitor was scripted by Jeffrey Nachmanoff, who has co-writing credit for the total catastrophe of a climate catastrophe movie, The Day After Tomorrow. Thus it’s no surprise Traitor is full of good intentions gone somewhat awry (though nowhere near as awry as they did in that piece of crap).

But it’s also strangely based on a story by Steve Martin. Martin’s smarts and wit are completely missing and it seems completely unbelievable that he had anything to do with this.

An always solid Don Cheadle (Reign Over Me, Hotel Rwanda) stars as Samir Horn, a Muslim-American of half Sudanese descent and former government agent who is now, along with his kind and worldly homie-in-homicide, Omar (Saïd Taghmaoui), up to the sort of no good that goes boom in the night. Guy Pearce (Memento) plays the agent with a PhD in Arabic who tracks Horn.

Horn is the traitor—but traitor to whom? America or his new terrorist pals? You’ll never guess, unless you’ve ever seen a Hollywood movie and possess the slightest powers of logic. The twists and turns begin in the mode of a simplified Syriana with dashes of the Bourne series, climax like last year’s ludicrously lame The Kingdom and culminate with a dénouement that recalls Speed.

Traitor is not all that bad, but, then again, it’s not all that good either. It’s the sort of movie to put on your Netflix DVD queue at position 33, and then to keep pushing back until you finally never see it.

Directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Written by Steve Martin and Jeffrey Nachmanoff
With Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Saïd Taghmaoui, Neal McDonough and Aly Khan
Dreamcatcher, Regal Stadium 14
114 min.


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