Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'The Kingdom' Plays like CSI: Riyadh

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'The Kingdom' Plays like CSI: Riyadh

Article excerpt

"The Kingdom" opens with what has become a familiar sight in the movies, a horrendous terrorist attack - this time on American contractors and their families in Saudi Arabia. Bucking an official State Department ban, a crack team of FBI operatives fly to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, to decimate the perpetrators and their bin Laden- like leader.

The renegade FBI quartet, which has only five days to complete their handiwork, is a diverse cross-section of high-alert types. Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) is the head commando with a short fuse; Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper) is a folksy explosives expert who likes to root around in the mud for clues; intelligence analyst Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman) is the wisecracker who reads "The Idiots Guide to the Koran" and is identifiably Jewish; forensic examiner Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner) is as steely as Linda Hamilton in "Terminator 2."

Directed by Peter Berg from a screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan, the movie makes an initial stab at dealing with intercultural complexities. Fleury bonds with a Saudi colonel, Faris al Ghazi (wonderfully played by Ashraf Barhom from "Paradise Now") who wants to capture the killers every bit as much as the Americans. But by the end, we might as well be watching "Gunfight at Riyadh Corral."

Or "CSI: Riyadh." When Jennifer Garner extracts bullet fragments from a corpse or when Berg's handheld camera bobbles about in the battle scenes in that woozy way that is meant to be hyperrealistic, we might as well be watching a Jerry Bruckheimer TV spectacular. The coproducer of "The Kingdom," in fact, is Michael Mann, whose film "Miami Vice" this sometimes resembles in its free-floating mayhem and gritty stylishness - and ultimate hollowness.

The filmmakers's attempts to balance out the gung-ho shoot-'em- ups with an overlay of "fairness" are rudimentary. As one example, in a prologue to the action we see Fleury with his adoring son, and later on we see Faris with his adoring sons. …

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