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Rules Of Engagment
A war is not a war without casualties of some kind, but are those casualties murdered or not is defined in an international set of rules called The rules of engagement. The film of the same name is based on real life events during the gulf war.
Samuel L. Jackson plays Colonel Terry L. Childers, a veteran Marine in the American forces, sent to Yemen on a rescue mission. The American Embassy has seen much peaceful protest from the locals but things begin to turn violent and the Ambassador and his family need to be evacuated. Upon arriving Childers' forces endure heavy fire and casualties before returning fire- into a crowd containing women and children. After 93 "civilians" are killed calls for Childers' head escalate, resulting in a trial - were the locals armed? Or is this man a monster?
Jackson is well cast as the furiously patriotic general with no family but the force, giving an intense and convincing performance. Tommy Lee Jones also convinces as Col. Hayes Hodges, a semi-retired marine from Vietnam, who is also a lawyer. Other notable players are Ben Kinglsey as the American Ambassador in Yemen, and also Guy Pearce as the prosecuting lawyer, previously seen in L.A. Confidential, and Neighbours!
The directing by William Friedkin, gives an adequate air of intensity and suspense both during the action sequences and the more subtle war in the courtroom. Perhaps the best quality of the film is demanding that the audience question what they have seen in Yemen as much as the witnesses within the plot!
Regarding the plot, it is fairly plain with no real surprising twists or turns to woo the audience. Unfortunately there are also some seams showing, with the holes appearing more obvious perhaps, to those of a legal disposition.
To summarise the film, it is well-produced Hollywood thoroughbred, which will perform admirably at the top, but probably wont feature in any Oscar nominations. This is a good legal drama with a generous dose of war-field action.

© Copyright Koolmag Ltd 2000


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