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"The Kingdom"

Directed by Peter Berg.
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan.
Starring Jamie Foxx, Ashraf Barhom, Chris Cooper, and Jennifer Garner.

Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  9/26/07


This movie was set to come out six months ago, but was moved BACK because the studio test screenings went so well that the producers wanted it to be fresh for Oscar voters.  Pretty strong statement about what looks like an action film, but with Michael Mann involved, you have to take things a little more seriously.

And, director Peter Berg--who did such a great job with the movie version of "Friday Night Lights" and the above-average actioner "The Rundown"--once again shows that he may be the classic example of an average actor who is an above-average performer behind the camera instead of in front of it.  "The Kingdom" stars Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman as an FBI team who comes over from the US to investigate the bombing slaughter of almost a hundred people--many of them US citizens living on foreign soil--in Saudi Arabia, a place where Americans aren't exactly the most beloved of people.  Because they are allowed into Saudi Arabia, aka The Kingdom, but not authorized to run the investigation themselves, they work under the auspices of Colonel Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), a loyal man of the Saudi police force who eventually sides with the FBI team to catch the killer and go outside the lines to bring whoever was responsible to justice.

The majority of "The Kingdom" is essentially a foreign version of "CSI", but what makes it strong is the intermingling of American and Saudi culture elements throughout the investigation into the bombing.  The camaraderie of the FBI agents--and, the comic relief brought by Bateman's character--is strong, but I actually enjoyed watching both Al Ghazi and his sergeant (played by Ali Suliman) go through their lives outside of being cops even more.  The Saudi side of the movie comprises a pretty equal portion of "The Kingdom" until the final 20 minutes; this is a good thing, and it makes the film consistently interesting to watch even if some of the processes seem rushed (in terms of the fact that FBI agents might never be allowed into Saudi Arabia under these circumstances, but hey, it IS a movie).

That aside, the film is solid, and the finale of "The Kingdom" is quite a rush; balls to the wall action is made better by extremely tight spaces and nightmarish daytime urban combat, made scarier when you realize you have no idea what is coming next.  The direction of this sequence is solid and will draw comparisons to scenes like a similar bit from "Clear and Present Danger"; I can't imagine what it might be like to have rocket-propelled grenades coming right at me while a dozen people are firing at me from any angle imaginable.  Good stuff, and one that deserves your cash money when it hits theaters this weekend!

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09