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Papa Shango Jr. gains early entry into Peter Berg's THE KINGDOM!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with another early look at Peter Berg's THE KINGDOM. We've gotten a lot of word on this film over the last few months and it all seems to add up to a mixed/positive vibe. Looking forward to it myself... but to hold you over, here's the review!!!

Hey Aintitcoolers, Spoilers could be ahead. Don't say you haven't been warned. As I was doing the weekend warrior thing around Andrews AFB in MD, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the base theatre was showing a free advance screening of a movie. I didn't find out until I actually got to the theatre what the movie was. In hindsight it was pretty obvious that it should be The Kingdom. I mean, there's even a quick scene at Andrews in the movie. So, I decided to go along with it and remembered the trailers were somewhat exciting, although I had seen the damn thing before almost every movie I've taken in this year. Also, wasn't this delayed from a spring release? A little bit of worry settled in, but I brushed it aside and tried to clear all expectations from my mind. So, how was it? Decent. There were some white-knuckle moments and some ham-fisted ones as well. I don't know if it's just me or if there is controversy surrounding the fact that this is essentially a clash between western and Arab forces in an essentially fictional story. I'll get to the part of it being based on truth shortly, don't flame out on me yet. I didn't personally find anything offensive or controversial, but then again I don't think I've ever seen a movie that has offended me personally. Peter Berg is something of an everyman's renaissance man. Very Bad Things was just one long dead hooker joke, but The Rundown and Friday Night Lights were both fun times at the cinema. He seems to be slowly evolving into a force to be reckoned with. I bet his next movie or maybe the movie after that will be his "Holy Shit" movie. That's right, the illiterate brother of Corky Romano is a good director. With The Kingdom, Berg ratchets up the pathos and tension with the events he unfolds in the roughly two hour ride. In a quick rundown (pun? no.) of the plot, a group of Saudi screwjobs (the screwjobs, not Saudis in general) kill the crap out of Americans in a secure compound in Riyadh. Let me empasize; this is not some safe terrorism scene where the crazy terrorist presses a button and we cut away to a huge expolsion in the background. These guys infiltrate the Saudi police and grab a vehicle and tool through the compound, gunning down everyone and anyone they see. Women, children and yes, even men all get killed in brutal fashion. Then comes an explosion. All of this is raw and a little scary. No mercy is offered and escape seem impossible. But then comes the ass-kicker. The attackers unleash their coup de gras and it's suitably horrifying. It caught me off guard and it will probably do the same to others, I wager. Cut to the chase, Jamie Foxx is the suave special agent tasked to lead a not-quite-official investigation at the crime scene to determine what exactly happened. He brings along the experienced, gruff bomb squad guy (Chris Cooper) the taciturn forensics agent (Jennifer Garner) and Jason Bateman. Because who wouldn't want to bring along Jason Bateman for comic relief? Richard Jenkins and Danny Huston square off as the Director of the FBI and the Attorney General, respectively, back in Washington over the legality of the whole matter. The world needs more movies with Danny Huston in them. He is the current The Man in movies. Here's what some people might not like. The movie goes from being CSI: Riyadh to the love child of Clear And Present Danger and Black Hawk Down in about 10 seconds flat. It's not as delightfully jarring as From Dusk Till Dawn, but it delivers in the action department. Spoilers? From the moment Jason Bateman is captured until the final resolution/confrontation, the action is top notch and genuinely exciting. You don't know if Bateman's character will actually be saved or fall victim to the screwjobs and their snuff film. It was like an international homage to the end of Blow Out, but with rocket launchers instead of earpieces. In fact, all the main characters seem like they could get killed at any moment and that helped the film achieve some credibility in my eyes. End Spoilers... This brings me to the alleged controversy of the movie. How are Saudis in general portrayed? They really don't go into too much detail, since Berg is satisfied with making an action thriller and not lobbying for the Nobel Peace Prize (or something like that). They're treated as normal people within their own culture who are intimidated by the extemists in their midst. Their whackjob extremists are just that: a black eye on the culture just like our own lovely redneck militiamen and Oklahoma bombers, just on a larger scale. If anyone who sees this movie is enraged because it makes all Saudis look evil, said person is either incredibly one-track-minded or is the dumbest person on the planet. I guess if you look for what you want to believe, you'll find it whether it's there or not, unfortunately. Berg wants the casual layman to know this too and employs Ashraf Barhom as Col. Al-Ghazi of the Saudi police as the rep for non-extremist Saudis in the movie. He has probably the best role in the film and plays it nicely, not over-the-top and not understated; just enough to get his character across as someone who is appalled at the attack as a human being in this world and wants his own brand of justice served to the killers. Is it a token role? That's for you to decide. I for one didn't see it that way. Obviously there are going to be people who don't know how to mentally disconnect their political brainwashing and observe this film objectively. I'm pretty sure Peter Berg is neither a fascist Bush ass-to-mouther or an indecisive welfare-supporting Democrat. I haven't asked him, but I can come to my own conclusions, thanks. Both lines of thought are not the answer here. Yes, this movie is based on an actual event of bombings that occurred in 2003. However, they are embellished big time here and the resolution is straight out of the movies, so try not to get the two mixed up. So, all in all, it was decent. Just decent. If this film was pushed to September for awards consideration, I would be baffled because this doesn't seem like that sort of movie. If you liked Tears of The Sun or The Siege, this is probably right up your alley. Even though I disliked both of those movies, I'm giving this one a passing recommendation. See it with some friends and maybe discuss it afterward, for about ten minutes max. I think it could be a hot button/lightning rod movie on the news when it's released, but I highly doubt any awards are coming its way. Some people may dismiss/condemn it as a live action, serious version of Team America. But seriously, if you're all up in arms about something like this, you really need to get a hobby. If I have offended any Republicans or Democrats in my review, kindly go fuck yourself. Call me Papa Shango Jr.

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