When it comes to Samuel L. Jackson’s movie career, he has plenty of watchable films. One of his more powerful dramas is the military film, Rules of Engagement, and it is now available for free on IMDB TV.
Rules of Engagement stars Samuel L. Jackson as Marine Corp. Veteran Colonel Terry Childers. He is joined by Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Colonel Hayes “Hodge” Hodges. The two spent their early years in the military fighting in the Vietnam War, where Childers once saved Hodges’s life. 28 years later, Hodges is a JAG officer and ready to retire.
Colonel Childers is still going strong. He and his unit are sent over to Southwest Asia to help evacuate the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen as the unrest is becoming too great to stay in the country. While Childers is performing the evacuation, an anti-American protest becomes violent. Childers and his soldiers take on gunfire from snipers on nearby rooftops. The protestors begin to throw rocks and Molotov cocktails as well as engage in more gunfire. In the process, three marines are killed. Childers then orders his men to open fire on the crowd below. The result was 83 irregular Yemeni soldiers killed, which included civilians and children.
Bill Sokal (Bruce Greenwood) is the U.S. National Security Advisor and he is looking to court-martial Samuel L. Jackson’s Childers. His hope is to salvage the U.S.’s relationships in the Middle East by placing all the blame on Childers. For his defense, Childers asks Hodges to represent him. While Hodges is reluctant, he finally accepts feeling he owes Childers his life.
The evidence against Colonel Childers, as it is, does not look good. But Hodges heads over to Yemen anyway, looking for something that may help his buddy. Witnesses and the local police are no help, as they all claim the protest was peaceful and that Childers fired without cause. It is only when Hodges visits the abandoned embassy that he notices an undamaged security camera.
Back in the states, Hodges confronts Childers about the complete lack of evidence. Meanwhile, Sokal has been given the evidence in the form of a security tape, which he proceeds to destroy. Things now look incredibly bleak for Samuel L. Jackson’s Childers.
Rules of Engagement then turns into a legal drama that has Hodges fighting for Childers freedom, while the powers that be are looking to save face in the Middle East.
So, what exactly are the “Rules of Engagement?” Basically, they are a set of military directives that describe when, where, against whom, and how the U.S. military can use their force. The consequences of not following these rules can be very severe to the soldier not complying.
The Samuel L. Jackson film did not enjoy an easy production. The filming itself wasn’t bad for the actors, it was bringing the script to production where director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) had an issue. The original script was conceived by James Webb, who went on to develop it with producer Scott Rudin. Friedkin, though, had trouble with Webb on the rewrites so Stephen Gaghan was brought in to touch up the script. Webb hated the changes Gaghan was making but he didn’t have much say in the matter. Friedkin eventually took Gaghan’s changes and proceeded to make the movie.
The Samuel L. Jackson film did not go over well critically. It also didn’t go over well with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who described the film as “probably the most racist film ever made against Arabs by Hollywood.”
This prompted Friedkin to step up and defend the film. “Let me state right up front, the film is not anti-Arab, is not anti-Muslim and is certainly not anti-Yemen,” he told the BBC. The director then went on to explain that for the picture to even be filmed in Morocco, the script had to be read, approved, and then signed off by the then King of Morocco. Not one person on the Arab-side of the ledger felt the script was anti-Arab. “The film is anti-terrorist. It takes a strong stand against terrorism and it says that terrorism wears many faces.” Freidkin then finished up, “…we haven’t made this film to slander the government of Yemen. It’s a democracy and I don’t believe for a moment they support terrorists any more than America does.”
Financially, Rules of Engagement was a moderate success. Friedkin received a $60 million budget and the film brought home nearly $72 million at the box office.
For Samuel L. Jackson, what can be said that hasn’t already been? He is one of the most iconic actors Hollywood has ever had the pleasure of making movies, giving one great performance after another, creating one great character after another.
When Rules of Engagement premiered, Jackson was coming of starring roles in movies such as Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace and Deep Blue Sea. He immediately followed up Rules with Shaft and Unbreakable, those three films all coming in 2000. From there, Jackson’s resume reads like a who’s who. He returned to the Star Wars universe as Mace Windu in 2002, then finished off the Star Wars prequel trilogy in 2005.
Not long after that, Samuel L. Jackson joined another huge franchise when he appeared uncredited as Nick Fury in Marvel’s Iron Man, a role he would repeat numerous times. In fact, and next up for the iconic actor is Secret Invasion where Jackson brings his Nick Fury to Disney+ for the Marvel series which also sees Ben Mendelsohn reprising his role as Talos and the addition of Emilia Clarke to the MCU.
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