Wednesday, July 31, 2013

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (2000) -
William Friedkin


Rules of Engagement finds Friedkin on the battlefield for the first time in his career (if you don't count Deal of the Century, which he apparently doesn't) and back in the court room for the fifth or sixth. It also finds him squarely in Hollywood gun-for-hire mode. Despite a few well-choreographed action scenes atop an embassy roof, there's not a lot of directorial razzle dazzle. Mostly, he plays good Paramount soldier.

In case your early aughts memories are fuzzy, this is one of those court martial movies ala A Few Good Men. Post-Benghazi, it may be more topical than it was then. Tommy Lee Jones and Sam Jackson play Vietnam buddies who reconnect when Jackson gets into a sticky mess after gunning down a number of seemingly innocent civilians while on duty atop a Yemeni embassy. Jones comes out of retirement to defend him, reluctantly and with huge reservations. Hot-tempered Jackson yells a lot (surprise) and tries, unconvincingly, to appear like a career soldier. Jones is his usual surly, solid self. They reminisce in the woods, have an unintentionally hilarious knock-down drag-out brawl in Jackson's barracks. Some more yelling occurs, this time in a courtroom. Someone defends his/her honor. A State Department douchebag gets fired. Somebody salutes their superior and/or the flag with a tear in their eye. You know, the military movie drill.

Rules of Engagement isn't a bad movie, but it's nothing new. For a far more engaging Tommy Lee-Sam Jackson square-off, opt for Jones' more intimate, better directed The Sunset Limited.

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