Published on May 13th, 2008 | by Chris0
Rules of Engagement (2000)
In the vein of such military courtroom dramas as A Few Good Men and The Caine Mutiny, comes Rules of Engagement. The short version: One Marine Corps. Col. Terry Childers (Samuel L. Jackson) must defend his decision to fire on a crowd of protestors at the US Embassy in Yemen. Defending him is his buddy since Vietnam, who was saved by Childers in a nasty battle there, Col. Hayes Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones.)
At the core of Rules of Engagement is the entire principle of the boundaries of war. In fact one of the characters spells it out quite clearly, “There’s a thin line between a war hero and a murderer.” Or something to that effect. Childers has to make the best decision he can, knowing full well the consequences. Which are plentiful.
There’s also an entire subplot which never really resolves itself, namely the destruction of a security camera tape which would exonerate Childers. I kept expecting a copy of the tape to surface, or something which might put that plot-line into place, but it never happens. I suppose we’re to take away that it didn’t matter much in the first place. That Childers’ years of meritorious service and lack of damning evidence prevails… Got me.
Of course the best thing about Rules of Engagement is quite frankly the chemistry between Jackson and Jones. Two superb actors who do not fail to impress, put them both together with an excellent director (William Friedkin) and the result is nothing short of impressive.
Consider also that Rules of Engagement comes out in 2000, and deals with issues facing our troops every day in a post 9/11 world. There are of course other concepts, such as the line that separates enemy from friend, and what actions we take. Particularly when the prosecution brings out an NVA officer from Childers’ time in Vietnam.
Yeah, there’s the entire politics and State Department cover-up angle… but again, it just doesn’t play out quite like it should.
Ultimately, as you might guess, Childers gets out of the mess with nary a scratch. Well, except for a minor charge, just so he doesn’t get off scott-free. But there’s something less-than-satisfying about it. I was like, “What? That’s it?” I fully expected more to come of the above video tape plot, more from the ambassador’s wife, etc. etc. Those little things that are brought up and then forgotten. Sure they get a mention in the ‘After the movie…’ ending plates (personally I don’t like them….) but that doesn’t much count.
Those little nitpicks don’t prevent me from giving Rules of Engagement some high marks. Not solely on the skill of Jackson’s and Jones’ acting, but the entire package, even with the above problems.
Rules of Engagement
Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson deliver electrifying performances in this “”tense, superbly-directed and top-drawer drama”"* about what happens when the rules that command a soldier become the rules that condemn him…
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Brand: JONES,TOMMY LEE
Original Release Date:
- Anne Archer
- Kim Delaney
- Bruce Greenwood
- Philip Baker Hall
- Samuel L. Jackson
Summary: the best thing about Rules of Engagement is quite frankly the chemistry between Jackson and Jones. Two superb actors who do not fail to impress, put them both together with an excellent director (William Friedkin) and the result is nothing short of impressive.