Rules of Engagement
There's a plodding exactness about Rules of Engagement, a 30-year saga about the unrelenting toughness of being a Marine. The rules themselves concern the use of necessary force and center on a mission that may have gone awry, a mission led by longtime war horse Col. Terry Childers (a ramrod Samuel L. Jackson, who nevertheless looks vaguely ill at ease throughout). Ordered to quell a protest at the U.S. embassy in Yemen, Childers follows the rules, only to wind up with 83 dead civilians after the mission and a court martial awaiting him back home. Childers turns to an old lawyer buddy, the tepid, retired Col. Hays Hodges (a craggy Tommy Lee Jones), and the two battle an inexplicably rabid secretary of defense (Bruce Greenwood) and, in the movie's best element, a razor-sharp prosecuting attorney (Australian Guy Pearce, doing a damn fine Boston accent). Directed with lifeless precision by veteran director William Friedkin, there's remarkably little tension or any answers to the film's serious questions about the definition of duty. Along with a few obvious story gaps, it's also disturbing to see the gusto with which Hollywood has so utterly embraced Arabs as the next great villains.