Wild and Crazy Scribe: Steve Martin’s Terror Thriller Confounds Critics

Everyone knows Steve Martin has managed to evolve from Jerk to man of letters. But is the comedian- turned- actor- turned- humorist – turned novelist – turned memoirist’s next act as the screenwriter of blockbuster action films? If not, his “story by” and producer credit for Don Cheadle’s war on terror flick Traitor sure is baffling.

Yesterday, Eric D. Snider of the Web site Cinematical, explained how Mr. Martin came to lay the foundation for the movie:

[A] terrorism thriller about Muslim extremists and FBI investigations? Even with the understanding that ‘typical Steve Martin’ territory extends much further than the casual fan might realize, this was not typical Steve Martin territory. Checking out the film’s website, I found this explanation:
‘Traitor began its journey to the big screen when Steve Martin presented an intriguing idea to producer David Hoberman while they were working together on the blockbuster comedy Bringing Down the House. Martin’s “what if?” scenario immediately captured Hoberman’s imagination with its provocative contemporary themes and surprising final twist.’

Well, that explains it. But critics still seem surprised. Here’s a sampling of movie reviewers’ bemused reactions to Mr. Martin’s participation in the project:

– “The movie, written and directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff from a story by him and executive producer Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin; apparently he’s wilder and crazier than we thought), keeps us guessing,” Ty Burr, The Boston Globe.

– “The story was cooked up by Steve Martin. Yes, that Steve Martin,” Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune

– “Scripted and directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff (co-writer of the 2004 eco-thriller ‘The Day After Tomorrow’) from an story co-written with actor Steve Martin (yes, that S.M.), the film hinges on a tedious plot point,” Jim Verniere, The Boston Herald.

– “‘Traitor,’ which was written and directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff, from a story by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin), has been so liberally polished with the varnish of sincerity that it would be hard, for its first hour at least, not to take it seriously,” Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.

– “The story, written by Jeffrey Nachmanoff (who also directed it) and Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin), is excellent,” Mishael Devlin, The Bulletin (Philadelphia.

– “What makes this fact more remarkable is that the film’s story was dreamed up by writer-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff (‘The Day After Tomorrow’) along with Steve Martin. Yes, that Steve Martin,” Michael Smith, Tulsa World.

– “Based on an original story by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) and Nachmanoff, Traitor is designed to pump the adrenaline as well as the conscience,” Carrie Rickey, The Philadelphia Inquirer.