Starring Tommy Lee Jones , Samuel L. Jackson , Ben Kingsley , Blair Underwood , Anne Archer, Guy Pierce. Directed by William Friedkin.
Run Time 128 mins (give or take a few seconds)
You know what we need more of? We need more movies about American governmental cover ups. There just aren’t enough out there. Not even with the likes of JFK, Enemy of the State, All the Presidents Men, Nixon… Need I go on? Or shall I illustrate my point a little further?
The most frustrating part of this movie for me is that with a director of this calibre, I was expecting a lot more. Friedkin fails to recreate the magic of The French Connection or The Exorcist. He does, however, conjure up something “special.” “Special” as in a small child who goes to school on a little yellow bus, and licks the windows throughout the journey. Y’know, THAT kind of “special.”
About the movie: Colonel Terry Childers (Samuel L Jackson) is a 30-year Marine veteran; a decorated officer with combat experience in Vietnam, Beirut and Desert Storm. But now, the country he served so well has put him on trial for a rescue mission that went terribly wrong. During a raid on an embassy, he ordered some protesters outside to be shot – or did he? For his attorney, he chooses Marine Colonel Hayes Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones), a comrade-in-arms who owes his life to Childers. Hodges is not the best lawyer in the service, but Childers trusts him as a brother Marine who knows what it’s like to risk death under fire. Bound by duty, friendship and a script, Hodges reluctantly takes the case, even as he begins to doubt the innocence of the man who saved his life in Vietnam three decades ago.
Sound familiar? It should. This is very similar in print to A Few Good Men but doesn’t hold the conviction of a character like Nathan Jessop (Jack Nicholson). Having never been in the US Marines, or been involved as a lawyer in a criminal trial, I honestly can’t say how true-to-life this movie is. However, I have seen Jagged Edge, Body of Evidence, Presumed Innocent and My Cousin Vinny. What do they have in common? The defence lawyer isn’t sure that the client is totally innocent. There is always a double cross. Always new evidence, and ALWAYS a past or sexual chemistry between the two. In short – ITS ALL BEEN DONE BEFORE!
How important to a movie is character sympathy? Texas Chainsaw Massacre had none. Russ Meyer films didn’t have any. But these films were never taken seriously. Rules of Engagement is the same. It has the credibility of Bill Clinton’s book, “The Secret to A Happy Marriage.”
Overall, I think that the script was stretched. The direction slow and the characters painfully under-developed. The hardest part for me to swallow is that a US Marine would be punished for the deaths of foreign civilians who are so anti-American. Hard Rock CafŽ and the American embassy in Kenya (or wherever it was) smiles retribution. But as long as Hollywood churns out movies like this, then the Yanks will always be a peace loving nation who use violence as a last resort…yeah, right!