You can only get so far on good intentions, and Don Cheadle actually gets farther than most as producer-star of Traitor. Problem is, he also sets a more ambitious goal, trying to fit in one film a timely morality tale, a crime procedural and an action extravaganza.
Cheadle's Samir Horn is an explosives expert selling detonators to terrorists in Yemen. Arrested along with his buyers, Samir earns the trust of the local jihadist leader (Said Taghmaoui), who helps him escape from prison and introduces him to powerful men with big plans to blow things up in the U.S. At the same time, FBI agents (Guy Pearce, Neal McDonough) are looking for Samir in connection with a spate of bombings.
There's more to Samir than meets the eye, of course, confirmed in the second half of the film (and it's pretty obvious before that). Much more notable than the basic plot is the fact that Cheadle's character is, to my knowledge, the first devoutly Muslim Hollywood action lead, and that criminal profiling is placed on almost the same level of practicality as fanatical teachings about an eye for an eye.
These unusual, intelligent touches aside, at times the weight of everything Cheadle and cowriter-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff try to cover brings the film to a near-standstill. As a result, what sticks isn't the message of tolerance they hoped to convey but the simple pleasure of watching Cheadle kick some ass, physically and otherwise.