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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.33%
Worth A Look: 23.33%
Just Average55%
Pretty Crappy: 8.33%
Sucks: 5%

5 reviews, 30 user ratings

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Rules of Engagement
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by EricDSnider

"Needs an ending. And a better beginning and middle."
3 stars

In courtroom dramas, audiences hate "smoking gun" scenarios, where the situation seems hopeless until, at the last minute, someone bursts in with a damning piece of evidence, or a witness suddenly starts telling the truth, or whatever.

But at least a movie with a smoking-gun ending HAS an ending. "Rules of Engagement" has the most anti-climactic outcome of the year (at least so far, and it would take some serious work in the remaining months of 2000 to top it). In a tragic case of movie birth defects, this film was born without an ending. Instead, it just sort of stops going, in an extremely disappointing and dull fashion.

Samuel L. Jackson plays Colonel Terry Childers, a much-decorated war hero sent to maintain peace at a protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Yemen. Things go awry, though, and he winds up ordering his men to open fire on the crowd. Hundreds are killed or wounded, and when the clean-up crew arrives the next day, the official word is that the protesters were unarmed.

Weaselly government guy Bill Sokal (Bruce Greenwood, playing the part in a way that manages to be both over-the-top and vague at the same time) doesn't want the U.S. to take the heat for the apparent screw-up, thus ruining relations with every country in the Middle East; he wants to pin it on Childers, who ordered the attack. Childers is court-martialed, and calls upon his Vietnam War buddy-turned-mediocre-lawyer Hayes Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones) to defend him.

The question at hand is, was the crowd armed? Childers -- the only man left alive who could actually see them -- says they were, and that they were shooting at the Marines. Yemen says they weren't, and the only ones shooting were the rooftop snipers across the street, and that the Marines should have aimed at THEM, not the crowd.

That leaves a surveillance video of the whole thing, which Sokal gets a hold of and hangs onto, as it shows clearly that the crowd had weapons. There's your smoking gun -- either the video; or the guy who delivered it to him (Gordon Clapp), who knew its contents; or the ambassador's wife (Anne Archer), who knows that her husband has perjured himself in saying that Chidlers was behaving irrationally. The movie has all of these as possible ways of exonerating Childers. (Well, you could also look at all the bullet holes in the embassy building and see they were coming from the ground and not from neighboring rooftops, but never mind.)

But the movie uses none of these. Instead, by trying to play on the idea that sometimes you have to break the "rules of engagement," the movie just kind of lets things resolve themselves. We're glad to see Childers let off the hook (well, as glad as we can be, considering we don't care much about him or his lawyer friend), but we wish it had been done in a more creative, suspenseful manner. This is a movie where critics can't be accused of giving away the ending, because there's no ending to give away.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1986&reviewer=247
originally posted: 07/05/03 06:22:42
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User Comments

11/25/09 Jeff Wilder Well shot (Friedkin's a master). But sidesteps questions and ending cops out, 3 stars
1/26/07 action movie fan powerful and thoughtful great all around as friedkin always is best film 0f 2000 5 stars
2/02/05 Dan Sweet shit man! 5 stars
4/14/04 J A Cool WAR Movie! 4 stars
3/25/04 john Friedkin's treatment of the subject matter is superb - so is the action- still a bit dull 4 stars
3/06/04 Jaco Visser Bad taste! If that's how American youth look, I'm glad I'm in Africa! 1 stars
5/08/03 mr. Pink Confusing and uninteresting. Even the actors seem to think this. 1 stars
3/24/03 Jack Sommersby First-rate action scenes can't compensate for the banal courtroom ones. 2 stars
6/06/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi FUCK THIS MOVIE AND EVERYONE HOO WAS INVOLVED WITH IT!!! 1 stars
10/30/00 Monday Morning Not much new ground covered & some obvious plot holes, but very entertaining. 4 stars
9/07/00 Richard Wright Well-acted and thought provoking: one of the more intelligent movies this summer. 4 stars
8/30/00 Pascal Most importantly i found it poses tough, interesting questions to consider 4 stars
8/21/00 Belinda Another good courtroom drama 4 stars
5/27/00 Jaime N. Christley Very familiar stuff, and not a total success, but plenty of things make it worth seeing. 3 stars
5/15/00 Donna well worth seeing 4 stars
4/25/00 Bueller The loose ends in the story fail to support the tremendous talents of Jackson & Jones. 3 stars
4/21/00 PhilmPhreak More holes than the front of the embassy. It was so dumb, I felt insulted. 2 stars
4/21/00 Freyja Patriotic garbage. The most unsympathetic good guy since, well, ever. 2 stars
4/19/00 Maclay01 You can see the influence "Saving Private Ryan" has had on war movies. The war scenes feel 3 stars
4/17/00 Steve Good action scenes but serious plot holes and retread courtroom story... 3 stars
4/15/00 Captain Highcrime Do ALL military courtroom pictures follow the same tired formula? 3 stars
4/11/00 TimmyToday Boring. At least Samuel L. Jackson was in it. 3 stars
4/11/00 Xalt Something subtly wrong with this one. Not sure what but it bugs me. 3 stars
4/11/00 Matt McClanahan (cardinal@dodds.net) Did I see the same movie? I was somewhat disappointed in RoE. 2 stars
4/10/00 Tony D'Amoto I've seen this movie before 2 stars
4/10/00 Louis ... 3 stars
4/08/00 Gavin Moore A must see, the first 45 minutes are really intense 5 stars
4/07/00 Dirty Dave Capone really good movie, a must see if you've been in the CORPS 5 stars
3/18/00 Adam Really enjoyed even the work print of this.Hope nothing changes for the theatrical release. 4 stars
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Directed by
  William Friedkin

Written by
  James Webb

  Tommy Lee Jones
  Samuel L. Jackson
  Anne Archer
  Guy Pearce

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