"Rules of Engagement"
R 2 hours, 7 minutes
Directed by William Friedkin
French Connection," "The Exorcist")
Harrowing scenes of bloody killing and violence throughout the
movie, some bad language
Engagement" is a different kind of war movie. First of all, it is
about a new kind of war: urban conflict. It depicts the other side
of war, the human side, where mistakes in judgment are admitted and
sometimes even prosecuted. And "Rules of Engagement" is also a movie
about politics. And politics never seem to change.
Two soldiers remain
friends long after their experiences together in the Vietnam war.
Colonel Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones), an army lawyer, chooses to
retire to a career of fly-fishing in Montana, while Marine Colonel
Childers (Samuel L. Jackson) is sent on a mission to protect an
American consulate in Yemen with a squad of Marines.
Childers and his
Marines face a new kind of warfare in Yemen, urban warfare, where
there is little or no difference between innocent civilians and
the enemy. After assessing the situation, Childers evacuates the
ambassador (Ben Kingsley), his wife (Ann Archer) and child, and
before extricating his men, gives an order to open fire into the
angry, militant crowd. Hundreds are killed and seriously injured.
Childers is charged with murder, and his good friend Colonel
Hodges is brought back to defend him.
The rest of this
film is about the events of that day, about the character of men,
and about the trial.
This story line is
lightweight. There seems to be too little detail that is worthy of
our attention, and this movie seeks to fill in time by stretching
out what little story line it has. I found the directing to be
anticlimactic. The few good ideas this movie presented were not
sharp or poignant, but rather part of the landscape. The
supporting actors and actress were given lame lines, and the
delivery was mediocre (even Ben Kingsley). The filmography,
however, was top-notch — pictures, colors and scenes were sharp
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What saves this film
from the discard pile is the incredible acting of Tommy Lee Jones and
Samuel L. Jackson. Even with little plot to go on, Jones and Jackson
deliver with intensity, with depth and with personality that comes
out right onto your lap. Jones and Jackson have certainly demonstrated
that they are versatile, powerful actors, and in this film they
demonstrate that they also make a great team.
September and October
have been poor, barren, dry months as far as video releases go. "Rules
of Engagement" will not be high on the list for Oscar nominations, but
in the middle of October we are not as concerned about Oscar-quality
films as we are with just having something acceptable and entertaining to
watch. This film barely makes my list, and I recommend it only on the
basis of the acting job Jones and Jackson give. I think I will be
generous and give this film 2½ stars out of 5.