In celebration of Jennifer Garner’s new action movie, PEPPERMINT (2018), I’ve decided to review a movie of her actually kicking ass, as I don’t think DAREDEVIL (2003) counts because she’s beating on a blind guy and ELEKTRA (2005) was just an awful movie, and no one kicks ass in an awful movie.
So I’ve never seen this one before. Yeah, God forbid I miss out on watching ELEKTRA, but it’s her one good action movie that I completely skip over. I’m not even entirely sure why I missed it. It looked cool, sounded like it was a good movie, usually I leap at those opportunities. But somehow I didn’t, so I’m going to make up for it now.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Jamie Foxx (BABY DRIVER , SLEEPLESS , and upcoming films ROBIN HOOD  and ALL-STAR WEEKEND ), Chris Cooper (CARS 3  and DEMOLITION ), Jennifer Garner (LOVE, SIMON , MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN , and upcoming films PEPPERMINT  and WONDER PARK ), Jason Bateman (GAME NIGHT , ZOOTOPIA , and THE GIFT ), and Richard Jenkins (SHAPE OF WATER , THE HOLLARS , and SPOTLIGHT ). In support, we have Tim McGraw (THE SHACK  and TOMORROWLAND ), Kyle Chandler (GAME NIGHT, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA , CAROL , and upcoming films FIRST MAN  and GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS ), Danny Huston (GAME NIGHT, WONDER WOMAN , and upcoming films RICHARD SAYS GOODBYE  and IO ), Minka Kelly (PAPA HEMINGWAY IN CUBA , and upcoming films NOMIS  and SHE’S IN PORTLAND ), and Ashley mother fucking Scott (BIRDS OF PREY [2002 – 2003]), HELL YEAH I’m on board with this movie!
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Peter Berg, known for PATRIOTS DAY (2016), DEEPWATER HORIZON (2016), and the upcoming MILE 22 (2018). Penning the screenplay, we have Matthew Michael Carnahan, who made his screenwriting debut with this movie (congrats, sir), but would go on to write for Berg again, DEEPWATER HORIZON. Composing the score is Danny Elfman, known for FIFTY SHADES FREED (2018), JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017), GIRL ON THE TRAIN (2016), GOOSEBUMPS (2015), and upcoming films DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT (2018) and THE GRINCH (2018). The cinematographer is Mauro Fiore, known for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016), SOUTHPAW (2015), and the upcoming X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX (2019). Finally, the co-editors are Colby Parker Jr. (PATRIOTS DAY, ANT-MAN , and the upcoming MILE 22) and Kevin Stitt (THE BOOK OF HENRY , JURASSIC WORLD , and the upcoming Jurassic World 3 ).
Alright, so there’s a few reasons why this movie is now getting a review from me. Berg was arguable one of the best directors out of 2016 with a double helping of great movies that year, and he’s got an awesome-looking film coming out this year, MILE 22. So a big shout out to him. And for a triple dose of excitement, three of these actors would get together again in eleven years to make GAME NIGHT (Bateman, Chandler, and Huston)
This is my honest opinion of: THE KINGDOM
Set in Saudi Arabia. Disguised as Saudi police officers, a small group of al-Qaeda shoot-up and bomb an American oil company housing compound, killing several Americans and Saudis. A second bombing occurs that night, killing a decorated veteran FBI agent named Fran Manner (Kyle Chandler). Keen on getting involved with the investigation overseas, FBI Special Agent Ron Fleury (Jamie Foxx) and his four-man team manage to gain passage to Saudi Arabia with only a five day window and want to find the terrorist leader responsible, but are constantly barred by red tape, making their investigation difficult.
It’s okay. Not really all that good in my opinion, but by no means bad.
The primary problem with this movie is that it’s marketed like it’s an action movie. Or at least, that’s how I perceived it. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have expected that, as it’s marketed more like a political action thriller, so I should have expected less action and more politics. But the biggest take-away is that the process of bypassing the red tape of what the heroes are and aren’t allowed to do is a little too detailed and therefore drags a bit for me.
There are, thankfully, a few saving graces. For one thing, despite the characters being fairly thin, with the notable exceptions of Fleury and Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), the actors are fairly charismatic enough to push through the limited writing and churn out some decently likable characters. Except for Leavitt (Jason Bateman). Leavitt was pretty damn annoying, which is so weird to say about Bateman’s acting, as he is generally a reliable talent for charisma, but that somehow didn’t get through to his character who comes off as kind of a bitch who complains and whines all the time. But Fleury is well-written as a dude who bludgeons his way through politics to get what he wants, which is always a bonus since politics suck donkey dick, and Al Ghazi is that guy who is just trying to do his job, but is meeting resistance on both sides of the spectrum. The Americans aren’t allowed to investigate, Al Ghazi has to prevent them from doing so. But like Fleury, he knows how to maneuver around red tape and shares the Americans’ hatred for those that attacked the compound, making him arguably the best character in the movie, and that portrayal was came from a flawless performance from Barhom.
Also, despite the gun-slinging only being in the last twenty or some odd minutes of the movie, the action scenes are intense and amazing to watch. Despite not having a surround sound system in my bedroom, I feel like I felt every bullet whizzing past my ear, every gunshot making my ears ring, my adrenaline kicking in, fuck, my first instinct was to hide under my pillow for cover. Props to sound mixing team, as well as Berg for great directing.
And here’s a big ole question mark, when did famed country singer Tim McGraw become such a good actor?! Better question, where did that talent go? I mean, I remember him being passable in BLIND SIDE (2009) and TOMORROWLAND, forgettable in THE SHACK and FLICKA (2006), but he sure gave his all into his brief appearance as a father who lost his wife in the attack and relays a disturbing story about how his sons watched their mother die in front of them and one of them trying to band-aid her mouth back on. He gave a chilling performance for a man with limited acting experience up to that point. I say this was his best role.
Overall, the movie might run the risk of being boring for some who might be expecting more of a shoot-em-up kind of flick, but it didn’t quite get there for me. I don’t think I’d watch it a second time, though I would love to rewatch the action scenes again, as that was some top notch direction. The writing could have used some polishing and the supporting characters could have had more depth to them, though the actors do a solid job of side-stepping the lack of proverbial meat to chew on. But I think it’s worth a viewing if you’re a political-action lover. But only once.
My honest rating for THE KINGDOM: a strong 3/5