Rules of Engagement



HODGES: Why didn't you tell me what you said?
CHILDERS: I didn't remember. If I’d have remembered, I would have told you.
HODGES: "Waste the motherfuckers". That's brilliant. You didn't think that was important?

A pair of Marines who served together in -- wait for it -- Viet Nam are reunited at a retirement party for the one driving a desk. After a life-changing injury during a battle in Cou-Lui, Hodges, (Tommy Lee Jones), becomes a military attorney and divides his spare time equally between fly fishing and alcoholism. Childers, (in an ass-kicking performance by Samuel L. Jackson), earns command of the 54th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Shortly before Hodges' actual retirement, Childers and his Marines are sent in to provide protection for a U.S. Embassy in the Middle East. A protest gets out of hand, the shit suddenly hits the fan, and the Marines find themselves in the middle of a hornet's nest. They come under fire, and after taking casualties, are ultimately ordered to return fire. Men, women and children are injured and killed--a horrible and massive bloodbath. And before you can say scapegoat, weapons and evidence disappear. Childers faces a court martial including multiple murder charges. The ensuing shitstorm provides for some excellent drama and insight.

Childers naturally reaches out to the first washed-up, burned-out, drunk, cynical Marine lawyer he can find: Hodges.

Engagement is one of my all-time favorite films with an all-star cast which includes Anne Archer, Ben Kingsley, Blair Underwood, and Guy Pearce.

There are a number of parallels which can be drawn between the 1992 blockbuster A Few Good Men, which had all the right attributes: cast, writing, direction, etc., and Engagement. In the finest Hollwood tradition of keeping up with the Joneses, (Deep Star Six, The Abyss, Leviathan, etc.), this is an equally good peer film. Jones and Jackson go far beyond the call of duty here and deliver outstanding performances in what is another, if not slightly newer, U.S. Marine courtroom drama.

One of the glaring differences between Men and Engagement is how the latter lacks virtually every ounce of humor found in the former. The flavour of the film is considerably different, as are the plot elements, surrounding circumstances, and the way in which the Marines' lives are depicted. (No softball games & marching bands. And mercifully, no Demi Moore). In Men, you have just one wrongful death, the question of impropriaty and cover up, and ultimately, who is responsible for whom. In Engagement, there are over eighty dead, and many other different issues entirely are dealt with. Racism. Religion. Bigotry. Hypocracy. And they're both dealt with in a dramatic trial (courtroom) sequence.

Alright, hypocricy. Wait right there. In Men, it's obvious that Kendrick, Markinson and Jessup are all covering their asses and, in turn, are themselves massive hypocrites. In Engagement, there's a cabinet secretary and a U.S. ambassador and his wife--all of whom have a bit of yellow-bellyness to deal with. OK, I'll grant you, without villains, you wouldn't have jack in either flick. Move along, nothing to see...

What's interesting is, while Tom Cruise's character was a young, ambitious, handsome up & coming Naval attorney; Jones' character is a drunk, burned-out, cynical Marine attorney on the edge of retirement. Cruise's character defends two men he's never met. Jones' character defends a man he's known most of his life. So there are some parallels, and some great contrasts. (Thank gawd, because when I look at Deep Star Six, Leviathan, and The Abyss, etc., everything gets blurry).

Hodges' closing argument is one of the most gripping I've heard in any courtroon drama, and speaks to us all, male or female, young or old, civilian or service. His words reach deep down (in places you don't talk about at parties) and gets your attention, and ultimately, moves your heart.

This is a powerful, gripping film, without all of the cotton-candy, mickey mouse bullshit that was sprinkled throughout A Few Good Men, because, hey, if you can't be a combination drama/action/romance/mystery, well, the mindless masses might doze off. And don't get your panties in a knot; Aaron Sorkin is massively talented, and A Few Good Men is one of my all-time favorites.

Engagement will rock your world.

5/5 - outstanding

5/5: Drop everything and go see it today
4/5: Definitely worth seeing in theaters
3/5: Easily worth the price of the matinee
2/5: Last Choice at Blockbuster
1/5: Keep your money, stay home & channel surf
0/5: Abyssal

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