Background: The first of many films this fall exploring post 9/11 America (and the "War on Terror," and Iraq), The Kingdom looks to be the most action-packed. Jamie Foxx is apparently having a lot of fun with military/police roles, having just starred in Jarhead, Stealth, and Miami Vice after winning his Oscar for Ray. I don't know why he gave up on his excellence in supporting roles like Collateral and Ali. Jennifer Garner continues to have the poutiest face in Hollywood, and Chris Cooper - well you never know where you're going to see him. Directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), The Kingdom was filmed in Arizona and Abu Dhabi, since of course there is no way a U.S. film crew would be allowed into Saudi Arabia, much less to film a movie about killing Saudis.
Synopsis: After a (completely predictable) suicide bombing at a U.S. base in Saudi Arabia, a team of 4 FBI specialists sneaks off to "The Kingdom" to exact revenge on suspected terrorist mastermind Abu Hamza. The team, led by Agent Ronald Fleury (Foxx), has strict orders to obey their Saudi counterparts and not touch anything, both of which they obviously ignore. They comb the bombing scene, examine bodies, and generally berate the Saudi police for their mishandling of the case, none of which matters of course, since Abu Hamza is their prime target before they even leave the U.S. So doors are kicked in, car bombs are detonated, Islamic sects are name-dropped, and bullets and RPGs are launched through the streets. A final, predictable shootout brings the whole thing back to where it started: Americans and Saudis promising to kill each other.
+ The last lines of dialogue - the only meaningful words said in the movie.
+ The idea of the artistic opening historical montage on U.S. - Saudi relations.
- The way too artistic, way too fast, way too confusing opening historical montage on U.S. - Saudi relations - maybe I don't watch enough MTV to train my reflexes, but was there any point to this?
- The titles flashed on the screen to introduce every character - totally unnecessary gimmick, I suspect an idea taken from bad TV shows.
- Jeremy Piven as an unnecessary character with annoying lines and an awful make-up job.
- The predictability of Al Ghazi's death - did you really think a Saudi was going to be spared in this hyperpatriotic movie?
- Jennifer Garner - dresses like a 14 year-old, acts like a 3 year-old, and talks like a kindergarten teacher. Oh, and displays a sweet maternal instinct (with full-on pouting) as she graciously gives a Dum-Dum to a little girl less than a minute after jamming a knife into the back of someone's head.
- The usual cliches: awful writing (e.g., scene with Jamie Foxx in his son's class), impossible shootouts, and an unbearably obnoxious "funny guy" (Jason Bateman).
Writing - 5
Acting - 5
Production - 7
Emotional Impact - 6
Music - 5
Significance - 5
Total: 33/50= 66% = D
Last Word: As much as I expected more from The Kingdom based on its basic premise, it's clear within the first few minutes that it's a meathead action movie for Americans who love seeing Americans run roughshod over anything in their path. The final words about the pattern of killing caught me off guard - until then the entire movie seemed to be celebrating the "War on Terror." Of course, that last bit of dialogue could also be interpreted as a battle cry for the "War on Terror." In any case, the movie is not in any way intelligent enough to create a meaningful conversation about terrorism or Saudi Arabia. It could have, but Peter Berg's patriotic action fantasies get in the way. All I saw were Americans, specialists in everything (of course), walking into Riyadh like they owned the place and using our favorite tactic in any conflict: chaotic brute force. I don't know, I've never seen 24, but I have a feeling this is how people enjoy watching the U.S. deal with terrorists. It's just too bad The Kingdom couldn't taken itself seriously enough to offer any new ideas.
UPDATE: After seeing Rendition, I had to downgrade this awful film even more, from a C- to a D.