Rules of Engagement [2000]

Genre: Action, Drama, War
Director William Friedkin knows a thing or two about staging harrowing action sequences, and if you don't believe that, you've never seen The French Connection or To Live and Die in L.A. He comes through niftily in this film as well, with an opening Vietnam battle sequence that sets the stage for the rest of the story, and then with the central moment in the film: a rescue mission involving Marines extricating the American ambassador from an embassy surrounded by hostile protesters in Yemen. Unfortunately, Friedkin can't do much about the implausible plot that follows, in which the Marine commander, played by the always-terrific Samuel L. Jackson, is accused of slaughtering innocent civilians (who actually were shooting at him and his men). He must rely on an old Marine buddy--a lawyer played by Tommy Lee Jones--to get him through the jury-rigged court martial. But the central premise--that an evil presidential aide would perjure himself and destroy evidence simply to maintain good relations with U.S. allies in the Middle East, rather than defending a highly decorated Marine colonel who risked his life--is inevitably hard to swallow. And the ending is even flimsier. --Marshall Fine

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