Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Kingdom

2007, US, directed by Peter Berg

Rating: **.5

Peter Berg expands his field of vision from Texas high school football to international terrorism but in the transition he retains the occasionally disorienting hand-held shooting style of Friday Night Lights. He also betrays the influence of one of his producers, Michael Mann, in the insistent, and sometimes overbearing, use of music. It's a pity that the raw material isn't up to more, since Berg is more than able to handle the logistic demands of his film – the climactic gunfight is a great bit of modern action cinema, adrenaline-laced and brutal - but instead he's saddled with hokum that throws an elite FBI team into Saudi Arabia to solve a terrorist attack on an American compound.

Even with Jamie Foxx deploying his considerable charisma, it's awfully hard to swallow the idea that his team could disembark in Saudi and ride roughshod over not just local custom but also local bureaucratic protocol – and make swift progress in their investigation into the bargain. Foxx cultivates one of the Saudis as his advocate, so that the film becomes, in its mid-section, a kind of buddy picture, with the two men learning to work together, but when push comes to shove things revert to Gunga Din territory. The surprisingly downbeat ending seems tacked on from another film - Syriana, perhaps - a moral conclusion at odds with the nuance-free operation we’ve just seen.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States