The Kingdom (2007)

reviewed by
Steve Rhodes

A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 2007 Steve Rhodes
RATING (0 TO ****):  **

Hello seasickness! Incapable of holding a camera steady, the filmmakers of THE KINGDOM are certain to keep audiences dizzy. With fast pans, spastic editing and dialog that is usually no more than sound bytes, the movie is very viewer unfriendly. Perhaps this does have an upside in that it may help keep viewers awake in this thinly scripted tale that doesn't come alive until it ends in a very traditional, big firefight.

The setup for the story is that a militant group of Saudi terrorists are trying to embarrass the royal family by their massacre of innocent men, women and children inside a heavily guarded compound in the capital city. Killing in the name of their god, these Islamofascists scream "All Glory to Allah!" as they machine gun down and then blow up a large group of Americans along with their Saudi guards.

The United States State Department does everything it can to put up roadblocks in the way of a crack FBI team that is eager to put "boots on the ground" in Saudi Arabia in order to determine exactly who killed all of the American citizens. And, although a large number of Saudis were murdered as well, the Saudi government and their police force spend most of their time attempting to thwart any investigation into the crime. Credibility is one of the story's major flaws.

With just the right political blackmail, FBI Agent Ronald Fluery (Jamie Foxx) manages to get his team into Saudi Arabia for just five days. (They are told that they are not permitted to work at night.) They are under strict orders not to touch anything at the crime scene and not to speak to any suspects. Other members of Fluery's team include two wise-cracking guys, Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman) and Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), and one token female, Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner).

As a crime scene investigator, Garner isn't allowed to do much other than weep a lot and complain about how loud bullets hurt her ears -- until the ending of the movie, in which she is miraculously transformed into a kick-ass fighter. Basically, she plays two completely different types of women, so I never bought her two characters.

The investigation drags on for about an hour and a half of screen time. For audience members still there for the last twenty minutes, the movie does finally come alive. Fluery and part of his team, aided by one Saudi policeman, battle dozens and dozens of much better armed men and manage to prevail nonetheless. It's completely unbelievable but fun nonetheless. It isn't worth waiting for, however, and it's certainly nothing original.

The absolute low point of the picture occurs with the last two lines, when the film takes great pains to let us know that it thinks the FBI and the terrorists are morally equivalent, with one not any better than the other. Be ready to throw up.

THE KINGDOM runs 1:50. It is rated R for "intense sequences of graphic brutal violence, and for language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

The film opened nationwide in the United States on Friday, September 28, 2007. In the Silicon Valley, it is showing at the AMC theaters, the Century theaters and the Camera Cinemas.

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