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Rules of Engagement
picture from Rules of Engagement 7 out of 107 out of 107 out of 107 out of 107 out of 10
Rated: PG-13
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Current Voter Rating: 6.053 (38 votes)
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From the title alone, and if one had a warped mind like mine, one could guess that this would be a dramatic love story, perhaps tragic, involving that period ("no man's land" if you ask me, but I'm a bit cynical) between a marriage proposal and "I do." You'd be wrong, of course, but not completely. You see (work with me here), this movie does deal with "no man's land" and how our armed forces (in this case, the Marines) must make tough decisions in the heat of battle (I apologize for the gratuitous paranthetical comments).

I guess what I really came away from this movie with is this: I am quite relieved that I have never been in such a situation where the life or death of someone (or a group of people) was in question. Some situations are so complicated that any decision made could easily be condemned, and not even hindsight could make the picture any clearer. And yet, some people have to make decisions like this in a split second while under immense pressure. Hence, we have the Rules of Engagement, which are used to train, guide, and prepare those who must face such circumstances. And, we also learn, they are also used to judge those very same people after such a decision is made.

What a setup, huh? So does it deliver? Sure it does. It paints for us not just one, but two, combat situations in which questionable (to say the least) decisions are made. I have already heard some complaints about this movie, however, in that it does not pass judgement decisively enough on the characters in this film. I have no idea what they are talking about. First of all, this movie involves a trial, and a decision is made by the jury. Secondly, I feel that movies which blindly lead you into taking one standpoint against the other in a controversial subject matter are annoying, simplistic, and bad movies. Personally, I prefer to think things over for myself, form my own opinion, and then discuss it with my friends.

As I watched Rules of Engagement, there were several times which I said (to myself, so as not to disturb others in the theater), "Hey Patrick! This movie sure does feel like a mix between A Time to Kill and A Few Good Men!"

"Yep," I would always reply, "But it is somehow not quite of the same caliber." (The pun, caliber, while reviewing a military-type movie, was definitely intended. And it took me quite a while to come up with it, I might add.) I don't know what it was, but I don't think that I would watch this movie a second time, whereas the aforementioned pair have already received second and third viewings by yours truly (not that I would object to seeing it if a friend really wanted to see it or if it happened to be on cable).

Perhaps it was because there is not too much that we haven't seen before. However, to contradict myself, I absolutely loved one particular scene of the movie. It was a fight scene. But not just any fight scene. We get to see Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson beat the crap out of each other. And what is great is that they do not have fists of steel nor the endurance of marathon runners. They are pathetic middle-aged men beating themselves up. It was awesome and refreshingly real.

picture from Rules of Engagement

Which brings me to the real draw of this movie: the featured actors. Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson are two of the best, and they remind us of that fact with their superb performances here. However, what has really got me wondering right now is this: Why aren't they called Thomas L. Jones and Sammy Leroy Jackson? This would technically be correct nomenclature, but it has yet gone unused in the film industry. Until now...

The only bad thing that I could possibly say about casting Thomas and Sammy is that they look really old in the flashback to 1969 in Vietnam (just look at the picture at the top of this page). And they do not seem to age at all to the current time period some 31 years later. I don't know what they could have realistically done here. Some more makeup? Digital effects? In any case, it kind of struck me.

As for the courtroom drama aspect of the film, this movie was very entertaining. Thomas L. Jones, even though he was portrayed as somewhat of a hapless loser, couldn't hold back that quick tongue when it came to grilling the head of the NSA (oh yeah, this movie has the old coverup/conspiracy theme thrown in there as well, which is always fun to watch but pretty far-fetched...I hope).

thumbs up!Good movie. I probably wouldn't rush out to see it again, but I did enjoy seeing it this once.

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So far, the average rating for Rules of Engagement is: 6.053 (38 votes)

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