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Rules of Engagement

"Rules of Engagement" on DVD

Peace is Hell

William Friedkin's Rules of Engagement starts off with a horrendous Vietnam battle that not only sets the scene, it's a delightful test of your home theater's audio system.

Shortly thereafter, the action shifts to Yemen, with another hard fought battle/audio feast. These scenes are not only extremely well staged and shot, they're gripping and will have you thinking how glad you are that you aren't there with Samuel L. Jackson and his men.

Jackson is Colonel Terry Childers, a longtime Marine and hero who leads his force into the US Embassy there when locals, egged on by a terrorist group, stage a raucous and violent demonstration.

Childers saves the Ambassador and his family but, pinned down by sniper fire, is forced to open fire on what, in the aftermath (cleaned up and nicely staged for the cameras by the locals) seen as the massacre of 83 innocent citizens, including women and children.

Rules of Engagement then shifts gears, from action adventure to court room drama. Childers calls on his longtime friend, Colonel Hays Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones) to defend him, even though Hodges never was much of a lawyer.

It isn't all about law, though. It's about courage under fire, loyalty, and all those other intangibles so important in the service - and that's why Hodges, a veteran of that opening Vietnam battle, is the man for the job.

Unfortunately, a sleazy, apparently Democratic (since the "Year 2000-released" movie is set in present day) National Security Advisor (Bruce Greenwood) wants a scapegoat so the nation as a whole is off the hook. While this could be understandable politically, that doesn't necessarily mean it's right - hence the rest of the move.

So Sokal leans on everyone and everything to to ensure "justice" is swift and seen to be done, regardless of what has to be done - ethical or not - to make it happen.

We won't spoil the movie by telling you how it works out. Suffice it to say it's a good story, well told, by a professional cast and crew. Jackson and Jones, and the rest of the cast, are very believable in their roles. Even the prosecuting Marine lawyer is portrayed as a reasonable human being - a lawyer! On top of that, Friedkin's direction is sure, and the production values are first rate.

As a DVD, this is worth a view if only for the audio of the battle scenes - but there's far more to it than that. The widescreen video, enhanced for 16x9 TV's, looks terrific (which, if you don't like blood, might upset you during the opening battle scenes) and the Dolby Digital audio (especially, as mentioned, during the battle scenes) is outstanding.

Extras include "A Look Inside," which features cast and crew interviews, and a behind the scenes featurette. There's also a running commentary from director Friedkin.

"Rules of Engagement" is a fine, gripping drama and, if you don't mind some graphic battle scenes at the beginning, it'll keep you engrossed.

Rules of Engagement, from Paramount Home Video
127 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Guy Pearce, Bruce Greenwood, Anne Archer and Ben Kingsley
Produced by Richard B. Zanuck, Scott Rubin
Written by Stephen Gaghan, Directed by William Friedkin


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Updated May 13, 2006