The Kingdom kicks ass, but ehhh… fails to take names. Where it could have explored a relevant topic in current foreigns relations, it squandered the opportunity by oversimplifying a complex issue.
For example, I know Chris Cooper plays an FBI bomb tech because it says it in giant bold letters on the back of his t-shirt. And every character is labeled that way. In an important meeting of the top political brass, each person has their own subtitled introduction, complete with name and position, as if the audience can’t figure out what’s going on. This is one step below the filmmaker pausing the story and saying, “Ok, so here’s what’s happening now…”
The film pretends to be a political commentary on U.S. and Saudi relations, but instead slides into just another action fare, complete with shaky cam. And even that is dumbed down. There are steady sweeping shots of the streets of Saudi Arabia that suddenly erupt in a war zone. We know this because out of no where the camera wildly flails around, which is apparently the sign for “sh*t is going down.” So it’s like you’re right there in the action… during a massive earthquake.
But perhaps I overestimate the average American public. Maybe they don’t understand the history involved that sets the stage for this real/fictional conflict, so it’s a good thing Berg has a little Powerpoint presentation during the opening credits to set the stage.
From the looks of it at this point, the number one movie in America won’t be this, but a movie starring a former professional wrestler, so there you go.
The story starts with a softball game in Riyadh set to Dave Matthews from the loud speaker that is interrupted by two terrorists unloading machine guns into the crowds and a suicide bomber taking innocent lives. An emergency response team arrives and while attempting to clean up the mess left by the extremists, another larger explosion erupts and an FBI officer is killed.
Despite advice from both sides of the conflict, another FBI team is sent over to uncover more about the attacks. The stereotypical diversity of this investigative team is a bit obvious. The crew is lead by Fleury (Jamie Foxx), the token black guy who never takes his shades off. Next is Southerner Sykes (Chris Cooper), the older, wiser member of the foursome with a chip on his shoulder. Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman) is the wise-cracking computer guy. And rounding out the crew is a forensic examiner and the only female, Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), who also somehow knows how to fire a weapon with pinpoint accuracy.
After they land, Jeremy Piven shows up as a grayer Ari Gold (now as a U.S. diplomat) and gives a few etiquette tips like “dial down the boobies” before nervously making his exit.
The rest of the film is basically “CSI: Riyadh” as they each work on their piece of the puzzle to find out who’s behind the attacks. They don’t really accomplish anything and then it’s time to go home, but not before exploding suburbans and a high speed car chase lead to a chaotic street battle. At least that’s what I think happened. I can’t be sure with all the shaking.