The Kingdom had plenty of buzz surrounding it prior to its theatrical run. I can remember reading a bit article on it in Entertainment Weekly, with quotes from almost everyone involved in the film, talking about how great it was going to be. Perhaps I was blinded by it simply because Jason Bateman was in it, but I honestly had high hopes for this film. It should come as no surprise, however, that the only quote that adorns the packaging is from Pete Hammond. I’ve noticed more and more over this past year just how much this man loves mediocre films.
After a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia causes a brutal mass murder, three FBI agents go to the country to try to catch the killer and the cell behind the massacre. Led by Special Agent Fleury (Jamie Foxx), the four man team, made up of Special Agents Sykes (Chris Cooper), Mayes (Jennifer Garner) and Leavitt (Jason Bateman), headed into the desert in an attempt to uncover the mystery behind this obviously planned and precise attack on families working for the Saudi oil companies. Through their brief stay in the country, the team is able to discover who is behind it and take out the leader—but in the end how effect was their mission? One leader down seems to simply bring a few more to the surface.
The Kingdom’s biggest issue is that the actors cast in the roles are largely unbelievable. Foxx plays the leading man believably enough, but he occasionally gives glances to the camera as if to say “yes, I am a bad ass.” It’s with moments like these that I’m completely bewildered how anyone could take this movie seriously; the film opens as if it’s going to be a serious political fueled drama and instead deviates completely off of this course and instead ends up being about Americas going into a country that doesn’t want them and kicking the bad guys ass. Yay, we win. Now what? Nothing .They go back home and mope about their losses and wonder if they did any good.
Any weak link in The Kingdom chain is Jennifer Garner, who, God help her, does her best to play the bad ass role that she carved out so well in Alias, only this time she’s forced to drop more than a handful of f-bombs that sound completely unnatural spilling from her mouth. It’s not even a previous perception of her I have—I never watched Alias and I’ve only seen her in Daredevil and, sigh, Elektra—she just can’t pull off a convincing foul language drop for anything. Bateman even disappoints with his role being nothing more than a funny man who we have to sympathize with because he didn’t really want to go to Saudi Arabia in the first place. Cooper is the only believable one and we don’t see too much from him past his uncovering of the mystery of the exploding vehicle.
What action the film packs in at the last minute is quiet exciting, but the whole rest of the film is just a very slow build up to it. The film could’ve had a half an hour cut out of it if we didn’t have to listen to our FBI agents fight with Saudi government for proper access to the crime scenes. Once that’s granted we start getting underway, but before then it’s just a lot of moaning from their part while the Saudi’s shrug their shoulders and say they can’t do anything to help. It’s in moments like these that the movie becomes relentlessly frustrating because you want it to go somewhere and instead it just hits roadblocks. Sure, it helps you feel what the FBI agents feel, but the film walks such a zig-zagged line through drama, comedy and action that you don’t care about the drama halfway into it when all the FBI agents can do is curse and bemoan their situation. It’s just a giant mess that doesn’t resolve itself, even with the explosions and gunfire in the last half of the film.
I will commend the film on a few aspects though. The highway chase and explosion was quite impressive to view and the hotel firefight was decently staged, although at times I felt like I was just watching a bad version of a 24 film. In fact, now that I think about it, that’s all The Kingdom ended up being: 24 shoved into two hours and being completely lifeless until the very end. Kind of like 24’s last season, but at least that show could afford to be dull at times.
There were simply too many things wrong with The Kingdom to find a salvageable movie inside of it. It does a great job in catching the viewer up on the Saudi Arabia history in the opening credits and it also paints the Saudi’s in a positive light, with their officers wanting to catch the terrorists as much as the FBI does. Then at the end of the film they attempt to bridge the American and Saudi terrorist world together by the quote of “we’re going to kill them all” being said by both camps. Well no crap you’re going to kill them all, you’re both soldiers in a war with both sides believing deeply in both. This attempt to come off as prolific just slips and falls on its face once again—it’s a horrendous attempt at making the viewer “think”, but the only thing this viewer could think was “oh good it’s over!”
I really wanted to like The Kingdom. It had a great cast and I’m a huge Bateman fan but there was nothing in this film that was redeemable in the least—I began to tire of the films dancing between serious and comedy, with the end result being a big ol’ mess. The last half of the film is entertaining, however, and there are a few positive elements here and there sprinkled throughout so the film is worth a Rental at least—just don’t expect to be too thrilled with what The Kingdom has to offer. Just keep in mind that you may just be more satisfied with purchasing more of Saudi Arabia’s largest export than spending your money on this one.
Packed in a standard single disc amaray case, The Kingdom arrives with a no-frills DVD case. Using the theatrical poster art for the cover, the insides of the DVD case contain only an insert advertising HD-DVD and a plain mirrored surfaced disc with the name printed on it.
Jumping into the special features on the disc we have a solid transfer of the film which brings to life Saudi Arabia through generally muted colors. There aren’t a whole lot of colors to be seen on screen for the most part and the film retains a look that is pretty much exactly like the DVD covers shows—kind of overblown and washed out. It’s a good look for the film and when combined with the handheld cam work makes it really feel like something out of 24, which isn’t a bad thing. Audio is a decent 5.1 mix that doesn’t get much of a workout until the end of the film where things start booming. Even during these sequences the bass level is really subdued, to the point I questioned if my subwoofer wasn’t working right. But I tested another DVD after viewing this one and it made some dust move from my ceiling, so all was good on that front, The Kingdom just isn’t a house shaker or a real channel breaker. That rhyme was intentional.
Moving onto the extras we have a solid selection, much to my dismay. First up are eleven minutes of deleted scenes that act as more extended sequences rather than deleted and in some cases are just removed snippets of dialogues during scenes that already exist in the film. In fact I would say over half of the scenes here weren’t ever deleted, as they were in the film in some form or another. “Character by Character: The Apartment Shootout” (13:39) takes us through the apartment shootout with each one of our characters sequences strung together in their own little format, rather than cut up and spread together like it was in the film. This is truly a great extra idea that is wasted on this film as I really didn’t care enough about any of the characters to see them storm the apartment building again. Plus I had to Garner drop the f-bomb a few more times, which is never pleasant.
“Constructing the Freeway Sequence” (18:16) takes an in depth look at the explosive highway scene that really does drop ones jaw. You get to see the raw footage of the cars explosions and crashes here and it’s really a sight to behold. The extra starts to wear on a bit long when we get to the sequence with our FBI agents trapped in the car and the director telling Garner to drop some more f-bombs (no, I won’t let that go, it really irks me). “Creating The Kingdom” (35:32) is a making-of documentary for the film, split into several parts that are playable individually or all at once.
“History of The Kingdom: An Interactive Timeline” which, despite the DVD menu italicizing “The Kingdom” portion, the timeline really has nothing to do with the movie itself, only it’s setting. It’s basically a recreation of the opening titles that’s a bit more in-depth. Finally a commentary by Peter Berg is included which is what you’d expect: proud of his work and lots of backslapping to cast and crew. Granted it looked like a difficult film to make, I just wasn’t impressed by the end results.
Overall, in case you haven’t guessed by now, this release can be Skipped. The extras on the set aren’t bad, but the film is certainly not worth watching.
The Kingdom is now on DVD and HD-DVD.