"Rules Of Engagement" has some flaws, but with the outstanding actors involved, their solid work carries us through any problems that may pop up during the film. The two leads are Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones; on the sidelines are such actors as "L.A. Confidential"'s Guy Pierce and Ben Kingsley, among others.
The main sequence of the film is an evacuation of an ambassador from a group of agressive civilians who had been firing and injuring marines. When the fire coming forward becomes more intense, Col. Terry Childers(Jackson), who is heading the mission, gives the order to fire upon the crowd. 83 are killed; 100 are wounded. The event becomes a world-wide scandal, and Childers is brought into court over the event, with security advisor William Sokel(Bruce Greenwood) seeing that Childers takes the blame for the event.
He comes to an old friend named Hayes(Tommy Lee Jones) who he served with in Vietnam(we see this in the opening sequence) to defend him in the courtroom. And, as we get into the second half of the film, we find Hayes defending Childers in the court, against a government that wants to see him take the blame. The film is a rather slick, "Hollywood" thriller; although it isn't logical throughout, there are some engaging dramatic moments once the courtroom sequences begin. The performances of Jones, Jackson and to an extent, Pierce, make for an intense couple of hours.
"Rules Of Engagement" is one of those movies that is generally very good, but you wish there were a few touches made here and there to take it from very good to outstanding. Still, viewers will find great acting on display in the film - Jackson, always a good performer, is especially great in his role as Childers. Jackson's remarkable intensity is on full display here, and his acting fire here really takes some of the courtroom scenes along. Tommy Lee Jones is solid as well, but Jackson's character often is the center of focus.
If there's anything "Rules Of Engagement" is not, it's never dull. Serving as a stage for some powerful acting, the film is solid entertainment.
VIDEO: Paramount offers "Rules Of Engagement" in an excellent 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that looks, with few exceptions, fantastic. Sharpness and detail are both very good, and images are consistent and well-rendered. Although I've never seen 3 credited before, cinematography by William Fraker("Tombstone"), Nicola Pecorini("Fear and Loathing") and Dariusz Wolski("Dark City", "The Crow") is bold and striking, and it looks great on Paramount's DVD effort.
There are some minor flaws that pop up during the presentation, but these are pretty brief. A couple of slight traces of pixelation and shimmer are all that I noticed. As with any recent film, we'd expect to see few print flaws, and thankfully, they are kept to the absolute minimum here - the print is crystal clear.
Colors are occasionally subdued, but mainly strong and nicely saturated. Black level is strong and flesh tones are natural and accurate. This is a very good presentation from Paramount.
SOUND: One element of the audio that's often engaged are the surrounds. Surrounds come into play agressively during a number of sequences in the film, and their use really adds to the movie. Gunfire errupts during the opening sequence in Vietnam and it comes in so loudly, so suddenly, that I jumped out of my chair. During this assault, noises are placed very well in the front and in the surrounds. The scene places the viewer into this battle incredibly well and I'll bet it'll have many people ducking from the sounds that practically seem to be coming from all directions. There's also some powerful bass during this attack.
How's the rest of the film's audio? Definitely enjoyable. The heavy score by Mark Isham often enters in, sounding dynamic and deep, with solid clarity. Although a film like this is frequently dialogue-driven to show off the actors (such as the frequent courtroom scenes), there are still some additional sequences throughout the movie that use the surrounds for at least nice ambient sounds. The protest early on in the film that's one of the main scenes is another good example of well-done sound, where the sounds of the protestors can be heard all around. This is not a constant assult in terms of sound, but when it grows intense, the sound is very well-done. Dialogue is very clear, and always easily heard.
MENUS:: Paramount has done very strong work here, with a bold, intense animated main menu that serves as a strong introduction to the picture.
EXTRAS: Paramount gives us a group of strong extras, but oddly, the trailer is not included.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director William Fredkin, who gives a very good discussion, opening the film with a statement about how his opinions can certainly differ from those of the audience, who should draw their own conclusions about the film at hand. He gives the viewer an solid amount of information and tidbits about the film; the director talks about his style and perspective, working with the actors, technical information about the movie, and other fascinating elements to the production. Midway through the second half, he also talks about the testing process and his opinions on the role of the audience.
What's refreshing about the commentary is how energetic the director is throughout the track. He isn't one of those directors who talks in a commentary without really regarding the viewer. Friedkin really seems to enjoy sharing with the viewer. There are a couple of minor problems I had with the commentary, though. There are times when the director falls back to talking about the on-screen events. The other problem is that when the commentary is not taking place, the viewer can't hear the film. Luckily, pauses are pretty minimal throughout. Worth a listen.
Behind-The-Scenes Featurette: A "promotional" featurette, but a very good one. The documentary takes the viewer into the production to look at what it took for the actors to get into their roles, and interviews offer the opinions of the performers of the story. The documentary talks about the kind of physical training with the Marines that the two stars went through, and footage shows us how some of the film's bigger scenes were achieved. At 23 minutes, this certainly is more of a "documentary" than a "featurette". It's quite informative, and definitely worth a look.
Interviews: Enjoyably, Paramount has now presented DVD audiences with a set of interviews from the cast and crew on a number of their recent DVD releases. Here, we get 12 minutes or so worth of discussion about the concepts behind the movie and feelings about the story. Also, the history of the production is discussed with, for instance, screenwriter James Webb discussing how he developed the story. Like the documentary, these interviews are also worth a look for those interested in further details about the movie.
Final Thoughts: "Rules Of Engagement" offers solid entertainment and the DVD boasts a fine presentation from Paramount, with good audio, video and extras. Recommended.