Retro Review: Rules of Engagement

Another military court room thriller oozing with a headline type story. Sounds awesome or does it?

“Rules of Engagement” tells the story of Col. Terry Childers (Samuel L Jackson) who is faced with murder when he commands a company of marines to open fire on a city square filled with civilians.

To aid him he asks long-time friend and fellow Vietnam vet Col. Hayes Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones) to defend him.

“Rules of Engagement” brings all the elements for a great story to the first half of the film and it’s a great setup. This is what makes “Rules of Engagement” so disappointing.

The screenwriter is writing his first actual credited screenplay which could be where this film falls finds its ineffective dialogue.

Through the second half, Jones’ character was quoted as saying “we have no evidence to exonerate my client but if we just had that tape maybe we would”. If this is the best line an attorney can come up with then you know this guy’s goose is cooked. As the trial drags on it comes down to last witness.

It’s a great Hollywood setup but as Jones cross examines the witness all he says is “yes” and then within two seconds we have a verdict. It was so infuriating to see something like this die so quickly. When the last two hours have lead to this. And to top it all off wait till you see the final salute that is the sickest of all.

Why could the screenwriter breathe some originality into the final scenes? Why didn’t we see the destruction of politician who set Jackson up? And on what planet did they think Jones had won his case?

Jackson and Jones are bored through most of the film. Jackson is playing a lot of his frustration scenes the exact same way he did in “A Time to Kill” .

If you take away the last 30-35 minutes of this picture you have an interesting film. But my all time favorite quote from the film is “If that Colonel was Yemenis and had shot 83 Americans. There would be no trial. He’d be executed no questions asked.”

(2 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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