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Movie Review

Rules of Engagement

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for scenes of war violence, and for language

Reviewed by: Debbie James

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teen to Adult
2 hr. 3 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Samuel L. Jackson in “Rules of Engagement”
Featuring: Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Kingsley, Blair Underwood, Anne Archer, Bruce Greenwood
Director: William Friedkin
Producer: Scott Rudin, Richard D. Zanuck
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

“Rules of Engagement” begins with scenes of the Vietnam War, where buddies Hayes Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones) and Terry Childers (Samuel L. Jackson) are each commanding a team of Marines. When Hodges’ men are pinned down by intense enemy gunfire, and Hodges is wounded, Childers comes to his assistance and saves his life.

We are then advanced 28 years ahead as we witness Hodges’ retirement party where he is awarded a prized Marine sword by his old buddy, Childers. Afterwards the two men discuss the paths their lives took after the war; Hodges to a job as a military lawyer because of his war injuries, and Childers, a highly decorated and respected combat veteran who’s about to go an another mission.

Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones

While onboard the U.S.S. Wake, stationed in the Indian Ocean, Childers receives his orders. There is civil unrest at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, and the Marines are to go and assess the situation and evacuate Ambassador Mourain (Ben Kingsley) and his family, if necessary.

Upon arrival, they discover the situation is boiling over, with an angry crowd hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at the Embassy building. During the evacuation process, they come under heavy gunfire from snipers positioned on rooftops and throughout the crowd. When three of Childers’ men are killed, he reacts by ordering his men to fire into the crowd, killing the snipers, as well as many women and children who were present in the crowd.

When National Security Adviser William Sokal (Bruce Greenwood) hears what’s happened, he decides that for the U.S. to claim responsibility would be a bad move politically, so he has Childers court-martialed on charges of violating the rules of engagement by firing on a crowd of civilians.

Childers hires newly-retired Hodges as his attorney and they begin the battle to clear his name. Unfortunately, a certain piece of evidence turns up “missing,” and the trial is set for just two weeks, which doesn’t give Hodges much time. When Hodges travels to Yemen to investigate, he strangely misses a major, obvious piece of evidence that would prove his client’s claims of what happenend that day. Despite that plothole, “Rules of Engagement” is still engaging to watch.

Objectionable material present include the obvious, and extremely bloody, Vietnam and Yemen battle scenes. There are approximately two dozen uses of the “f” word and an almost equal number of the Lord’s name misused. There is no sex or nudity.

Viewer Comments
A WONDERFUL MOVIE! I thought that this movie was a great movie. I didn’t lose interest at all. It did have some blood and some language like every war movie; but it didn’t glorify violence. I really enjoyed watching it. It is rated R because of the subject it was dealing with. It is not a bad movie. There is no sex and no nudity. I would recommend it for teens and adults. I really liked it. My Ratings: [3½/5]
Tiffany Millikan, age 15
I saw the movie and agree with Brett Willis’ review. The government cover-up (distortion of truth and justice) is a good example of wickedness and cowardliness. The heros show courage and determination, though not without human frailty.
Jim Yuill, age 39
I thought this movie was thought provoking, challenging the viewer to face the ugliness of war and see that it is not the heroic adventure that other movies in the past have made it out to be. I felt it pulled the viewers in and enabled them to see the issue from many sides. Men in combat are exposed to terrible situations that most of us can never comprehend and I think this movie helps people understand why people act the way they do in extreme situations.
David Krussow, age 36
This film deals with some of the conflicts and contradictions that might grow out of military duty. Not the first to venture into that territory (think of “Crimson Tide,” “A Few Good Men,” “Courage Under Fire” or any Vietnam War film), but it’s a thought-provoker… Content notes: Profanity is extreme, as in any modern war movie; there are probably 25-50 uses of f*. There are graphic killing scenes, using some new digital special-effects techniques for blood-splatter. There are also scenes of some of the wounded recovering (or dying) in an open-air clinic. At one point Childers and Hodges, both drunk and distraught, get into a “friendly” fistfight. There’s no sexual content or nudity. At the ruined Embassy and among the wounded, there are copies of an audiocassette which declares Jihad against all Americans, civilian and military. The person forced to translate the tape says that he’s not a member of “Jihad;” that’s beside the point, although the film doesn’t explain this very clearly. Jihad isn’t just a part of the name of some extremist groups. For many Muslims, Jihad (Holy War) is a sacred duty and being killed in a properly-authorized Holy War is an automatic ticket to Heaven. (Ch Like several other films with contradiction or cover-up themes, this one will give the viewer a mixture of respect and disrespect for the government and the military. (Remember, this story is fictional.) For fans of this genre, I’d say it’s somewhere in the upper half of films of its type, but not one of the best. My Ratings: [1½/3½]
Brett Willis, age 49