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Rules of Engagement

The problem with Rules of Engagement isn't that it isn't good. It's that it isn't as good as it thinks it is.

The film opens with two very good action sequences. One in Vietnam, and then one in The Middle East. Bullets fly, people are shot, chaos ensues. Very nice.

Then the violence stops, the drama begins, and the pace slows to a grinding halt.

Folks, when you open your flick with two action-packed sequences, you can't just switch gears and expect everyone to feel hunky-dory about it. We're pumped! We're primed! We want more bloodshed! Bring it on!

But no, this is an IMPORTANT movie, and we're doing a lot of discussion of IMPORTANT things.

Samuel L. Jackson is in charge of a military evacuation that ends up with 83 dead Yemen protesters - including women and children. He goes on trial for murder. Tommy Lee Jones defends him. There ya go. Complicated, isn't it?

Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy L. Jones (actually, it's Tommy LEE Jones, but I think it's cute that they both have the same middle initial) are quite good in this movie. They are good actors who, when given tasty parts to chew on, usually rise to the occasion.

But so what? Samuel L. has already played the wrongly-accused good guy in The Negotiator and Tommy L. has already played the cranky-yet-tough old-timer know-it-all in just about every movie he's ever done. Nothing new here.

And the other cast members? Same thing. Bruce Greenwood as the slimy bad guy? Double Jeapordy. Guy Pearce as the by-the-book guy courted by the bad guys to help their case? L.A. Confidential.

I could go on.

In fact, I will. Anne Archer as the quiet wife of an important government official? Patriot Games. Ben Kingsley as the powerless government dupe? Dave.

The IMPORTANT topics dealt with here involve the question of when deadly force can be used, and when it can't. Samuel claims that the protesters were armed and shooting at him - including the women and children. And when civilians are armed and shooting Marines, they cease to be civilians, and can be taken out with the use of deadly force. Or can they?

Hence the moral dilemma. Real heady stuff. Makes you think. Makes you ponder. Then it just makes you wish for another cool firefight to pass the time.

Confusing the matter even more, the movie ends with "what happened after" text right before the closing credits. As if it were a true story. But the text is so lame, it's a mockery. Might as well have just said "The Bad Guys Paid For Their Crimes" for all the interesting information they left us with.

My advice to anyone really interested in this movie, decide what kind of movie you want to see. If you want an exciting action flick, leave after the first 30 minutes. If you want a tense courtroom drama, show up 30 minutes late.

Either way, you'll be happier.

I'm giving the first part of Rules of Engagement 4 1/7 Babylons. I'm giving the second part 3 4/5. But if you end up seeing the whole thing, then it gets 2 5/6. It's all about the fractions, baby!

Editor's Note:

The Rules of Engagement need to be amended to say the use of Deadly Force is permitted when dealing with a self-centered, pompous Critic who couldn't spell the word "cat" if you gave him the c and the t.

Rules Of Engagment
Rated: R
Directed By: William Friedkin
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Tommy L Jones, Ben L. Kingsley, Blair L. Underwood, Anne L. Archer, Guy L. Pearce, Philip L. Baker L. Hall and Amidou. That's right, just Amidou. That's his entire name, Amidou. That's so cool! Although it really should be L. Amidou.

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