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Rules of Engagement (2000)

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An attorney defends an officer on trial for ordering his troops to fire on civilians after they stormed a U.S. embassy in a third world country.



(story) (as James Webb), (screenplay)
1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mrs. Mourain
Gen. H. Lawrence Hodges
Gen. Perry
Dr. Ahmar
Tom Chandler
Judge Col. E. Warner
Baoan Coleman ...
Col. Binh Le Cao
Hayes Hodges III
Capt. Hustings


Hayes Hodges finds his career aspirations dashed when he's wounded in Vietnam combat. He then returns to America and becomes a disillusioned lawyer who goes up against the service to defend Colonel Terry Childers, who is accused of inciting an incident that leaves many demonstrators dead. Hodges in no position to decline: Childers heroically saved his life back in Vietnam. Written by Ronos

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A hero should never have to stand alone.


Drama | Thriller | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for scenes of war violence, and for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




| | |



Release Date:

7 April 2000 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Reglas de combate  »

Box Office


$60,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$15,011,181 (USA) (7 April 2000)


$61,322,858 (USA) (4 August 2000)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


A replica of the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, NC, was built at the Vint Hill Farm Station, South Manassas, VA. Some 800 Marines were hired for the combat and other action scenes. See more »


During attack on embassy plastic bottle was used for petrol bomb but smashed like glass on the wall. See more »


Major Mark Biggs: There are rules and Marines are sworn to uphold them.
Colonel Terry L. Childers: I was not going to stand by and see another Marine die just to live by those fucking rules.
See more »


On the Threshold of Liberty
by Mark Isham
Contains a sample performed by Mark Isham
Courtesy of The Windham Hill Group
See more »

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User Reviews

Despite a Classy Cast, Not Much Doing
16 October 2000 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

Rules of Engagement fits comfortably into that genre of military film in which the motivations inherant in the human character are subverted for the motivates of the The United States Marines. Assinine personal decisions can just be tossed off as being part of The Code. Unlike A Few Good Men, still the best of its kind, Rules of Engagement falls flat because even as none of the character actions make sense, nothing is surprising either, and that is the biggest sin of all.

This is all unfortunate, since Rules of Engagement was made by a lot of people who should know better. Or who at least once knew better. The recent rerelease of The Exorcist and a repeat viewing of The French Connection contrasted with this film can only lead viewer to a simple conclusion: At one point William Friedkin was a master of his craft, knowing how to tell a compelling story with a unique visual style. He can't do that anymore. It's shocking just how dull the early scenes in Vietnam and Yemen feel. There's no tension and at a certain point you just want the characters to move on. Friedkin isn't helped by the fact that usually reliable cinematographer William Fraker (a five-time Oscar nominee) has given the film a murky look, often mislighting actors, unless the purpose was to make everybody look bruised.

When all is said and done, only Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson are given fully developed characters. Even though they're often forced to say stupid things (Out of nowhere Jackson has an overly expositional insult about Jones's alcoholism, a problem that hadn't been mentioned previously and was never relevant afterwards), these actors are always reliable. The film's other interesting performance come from Guy Pearce, whose American accent is frequently preposterous, but unlike LA Confidential (where Pearce gave a fuller overall performance), the accent remains mostly consistant throughout.

The film's other actors are stranded without resolutions for their characters. Ben Kingsley and Anne Archer, as the weak Yemeni ambassador and his wife, are left stranded. Ditto Bruce Greenwood (so consistantly excellent as wounded heroes in Atom Egoyan films, and so badly wasted as one dimensional heavies in American movies), whose narrative arc involving a videotape is woefully without payoff.

In the end, Rules of the Game offers nothing new, and nothing surprising. The solid acting by the leads fits into this rubric of normality, but as does the absolute apathy the film produces.

I give it a 4/10.

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