BUILDINGS MAY FALL, but Hollywood has emerged unscathed from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Quick to recognize our belligerent new wartime mood of jingoistic retribution, yet wary of appearing racist or insensitive, studios have shrewdly revamped the plot lines to their upcoming films (previewed below). As always, they know their audience only too well.
Red Cross volunteer and flight school instructor Arnold Schwarzenegger grows suspicious of three new pupils (Akmed, Akmed, and Akmed) whose answers to the quiz question, "How should you welcome boarding passengers?" are identical: "Greetings infidels! We wish you a short, pleasant journey to the afterlife." Since he's married to a beautiful Syrian woman (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and has the utmost respect for the sage, benevolent neighborhood imam (Morgan Freeman), Arnold is reluctant to doubt his students until he notices one has the e-mail address email@example.com. Heartened when Freeman counsels, "Sometimes the Koran says it's OK to kick a little ass," our hero confronts the three in a swooping showdown over Mount Rushmore with air-to-air missiles. Throughout, he's assisted by his best pal and trusty sidekick Mohammad (Eddie Murphy), a glib, patriotic hockey lover who runs the local falafel hut. (PG-13)
Stallone plays a Miami car rental clerk (and semiprofessional bodybuilder) who notices the Panjshir Valley listed as place of residence on some routine paperwork. Investigating the mysterious customer, he stumbles upon an Al Qaeda plot to spread poisonous chickpeas over the city by crop duster. Doubly concerned about Arab stereotypes because he's dating a Syrian-born pop music star (Paula Abdul), Sly first consults a kindly local Afghan professor (Jimmy Smits), who advises, "Islam means love and surrender, but these motherfuckers deserve to die!" Thus encouraged, he takes on the assembled terrorist mob in a climactic Disney World shootout. Mohammad, his trusty sidekick, is played by wisecracking Martin Lawrence. (PG-13)
Die Hard 4
Bruce Willis' redoubtable detective John McClane has retired from the police force to manage a sleepy hotel in Port Angeles, Wash. When a sweaty, nervous-looking guest, fresh off the ferry from Canada, asks him where to buy several tons of fertilizer and diesel fuel, he checks the room's billing records to discover numerous phone calls to Kandahar (along with a depleted minibar and exorbitant porn-channel charges). Leaving aside his hobby of selling driftwood carving art to benefit Afghan refugees, McClane follows a hunch and discovers a scheme to topple the mighty Space Needle! There, brandishing his bazookas atop the revolving restaurant, he faces down the terrorists with the aid of his trusty sidekick, Mohammad (Samuel L. Jackson), whose devotion to the Mariners is second only to his love for Allah. (PG-13)
During the Sept. 11 attacks, firefighter Steven Seagal makes a vow to his wounded, dying NYFD battalion commander father (Sean Connery) "not to be consumed with hate or prejudice." Several months later, our grief-stricken hero is coaching his Brooklyn neighborhood's Arab-American kiddie soccer league when he stumbles upon a Hezbollah plot to pour sarin in the city's drinking reservoirs. At the same time, he falls in love with a lovely visiting foreign exchange student from Oman (Rae Dawn Chong), who encourages Seagal to set aside his usual serene pacifism and "whip their Palestinian butts." Seagal does just that, using numchucks, razor-tipped throwing stars, and the most lethal weapon of all—his own hands! A hilarious subplot ensues when his trusty sidekick, Mohammad (Chris Rock) wins a three-legged camel in a poker game. (PG-13)
Delta Force 4
Chuck Norris reprises his role as Army Col. Scott McCoy, now retired and working as a high-level aide to N.Y.C. Mayor Rudy Giuliani (playing himself, and a shoo-in for an Oscar). While protecting a mosque from a surly mob of bigots, McCoy decides to adopt seven orphaned children from Turkmenistan, then discovers that undercover agents of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood are scheming to pilot a submarine up the Hudson to destroy the Erie Canal. Reluctantly, he takes up arms again, while assisted by his trusty sidekick Mohammad (Chris Tucker), who keeps everyone in stitches with constant motor-mouthed commentary. (PG-13)