Cheadle's chops help keep 'Traitor' thrilling

"Traitor" (Rated PG-13) is a film that will be enjoyed by fans of the thriller genre. It's not just another knockoff terrorist film that plays to the prejudices and stereotypes so common when constructing today's post-9-11 film villains. It's far too easy to create ominous-looking Middle Eastern men sporting seven-day stubble, intent on finding enough plastic explosives to blow up several city blocks in Manhattan, all in the name of Allah. This film avoids that trap, but just barely.

Actually, "Traitor" is, in great part, character driven, focusing on an enigmatic man, Samir Horn (Don Cheadle), who was born in Sudan and has lived most of his life in two worlds: the Middle East and the U.S. Apparently, he has decided that selling weapons and explosives to terror cells for hard cash is too lucrative to pass up and seems unconcerned about the consequences.

He is picked up in a raid and thrown into a Yemeni prison along with other terrorists. To his surprise, he is visited by two members of the FBI who want to plea bargain with him. And so the story develops.

To say much more would risk giving away some of the plot which has an interesting twist. This is a very watchable movie and will not disappoint, repeating the caveat that it helps to be a fan. Know also that "The Bourne Identity" it's not, though some critics have gushed that it is. It does have at its center Cheadle who is fine actor with some street cred for his powerfully delivered roles, one example being "Hotel Rwanda."

Babylon A.D.

Start with the title, "Babylon A.D" (Rated PG-13). Sounds biblical, exotic, even strangely futuristic. In a retro, cool kind of way. Not even close.

Babylon's connection to the film? Not a clue. But then this film is a mess from the first frame. And it begs the question: how did Vin Diesel ever become the B action actor of choice? He's stone-faced, no matter the role, has an emotive range that is nonexistent, speaks in a monotone, and walks through this film so detached it's as if he's not sure what anything means.

To be fair, that may be the appropriate reaction — nothing in this movie means anything. It could have been played backwards and would have made just as much sense. They could have thrown the script on the floor and collated it randomly. They could have started in the middle and worked toward either end. It's all nonsense with the requisite destruction of property, shootings, scenes so improbable that they're laughable, and characters who are caricatures. Keep in mind that a film like this cost millions to make and millions to advertise. And for what?

Suggesting that you, the filmgoer, not see this film is unnecessary. But then the target demographic is teenage boys who are served up movie after movie packaged in CGI, having absolutely no story and not a moment of redeeming value. It's just another video game disguised as a movie. When filmmakers decided to go after the dudes who spend hours playing "Grand Theft Auto," and using said games as templates, well, that was the beginning of the end of great B movies.

So, if your tween or teen son says he's heading out to see "Babylon A.D.," feel free to push furniture in front of the door and do whatever is necessary to get your house gremlin to see something else. Extra money may have to change hands. No worries.

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