Published Sep 28, 2007Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Kingdom, or CSI: Saudi Arabia. Seriously, when everythings said and done, it feels like youve just endured a two-and-a-half-hour episode of CSI, except here the cops (besides being genii at cracking crime scenes) wipe out the bad guys with the pedigree of NAVY Seals on steroids. And its bloody, raw and nauseating, and ultimately more mundane than a SPIKE TV marathon.
A mass suicide bombing has ripped apart the heart of an American community in Saudi Arabia. Word of the disaster reaches Washington and a small FBI task force (Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Chris Cooper) led by Ronald Fluery (Jamie Foxx) is dispatched to investigate the bedlam. Once our heroes arrive to the desert kingdom, things get sticky when the freedoms theyre used to having are hamstrung by the Saudi National Guards way of solving crimes, which according to this movie is weak and obsolete. But the Saudi police dont budge, so the Americans take matters into their own hands. Cue the rebellion in the face of adversity. Cue the badass action. Cue Jamie Foxx spitting more sardonic one-liners than bullets.
Believe me, youve seen this movie before. Youve heard this brazen dialogue and youve seen these programmed performances. As a commentary on Middle East politics and warfare, Kingdom doesnt offer anything novel. Director Berg certainly tarts up the film with wobbly camera work (looking like he blatantly stole every technique from Michael Manns book) and pulse-pounding action (which is shot in digital for some scenes, also Michael Manns M.O.) but the only ingredient that could make the film as relevant and powerful as it is in Bergs ambitious little head is innovation. Sadly, there is no trace of that here.
If anything, the film should be accredited to Michael Mann. He produced it and you can bet your mortgage that Berg probably just piggybacked on Mann throughout the whole filming process. Actually, forget the CSI reference. This is Miami Vice goes to Saudi Arabia. Eek. (Universal)