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RULES OF ENGAGEMENT ($30) is a slick, entertaining military thriller that features two great leading men being put through their paces by one heck of a great director. Although the film opens with a battle during the Vietnam War, RULES OF ENGAGEMENT is grounded in how the turbulent Middle Eastern situation of today affects America politics and American soldiers. Tommy Lee Jones portrays Colonel Hayes Hodges, a Marine Corps lawyer whose life was saved by Colonel Terry L. Childers (Samuel L. Jackson) in a Vietnamese jungle during the war. Just as Hodges is set to retire from the service, his best friend Childers is given a new combat command over in the Middle East. Unfortunately, there is a siege on the American Embassy in Yemen, which requires that an armed combat team be sent in to rescue Ambassador Mourain (Ben Kingsley) and his wife (Anne Archer).

During the conflict, a number of marines are killed and Colonel Childers gives an order to fire on the crowd. When there are no weapons found amongst the dead, Childers ends up facing a court martial. Did Childers properly follow the Rules of Engagement or did he order the slaughter of innocent women and children? That's the question Hodges must answer, when Childers requests that his friend become his legal council. Initially, Hodges doesn't believe he is up to the legal challenge of representing Childers in a life or death case. However, Childers' faith in his abilities gives him the resolve to go forward and face off against Major Mark Biggs (Guy Pearce), the legal hotshot assigned to be prosecuting attorney. RULES OF ENGAGEMENT climaxes with a terrific courtroom sequence that nicely contrasts with the film's big, explosive battle scenes, which are also beautifully staged by director William Friedkin. The cast of RULES OF ENGAGEMENT also includes Blair Underwood, Mark Feuerstein, Philip Baker Hall and Bruce Greenwood.

With RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, Paramount Home Entertainment pulls out all the stops to produce another killer DVD in terms of video and audio quality. RULES OF ENGAGEMENT has been framed at 2.35:1 and the presentation includes the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. The stellar video is incredibly sharp and detailed- making this one of Paramount's best looking DVDs ever, which is saying a lot, since all of there recent efforts look just great. Color reproduction is strong, with highly realistic flesh tones complementing the lush greens of the jungle scenes and the warm, dusty hues of the desert. Blacks are pure and the image provides very impressive shadow detail and wonderfully smooth contrast. Flawless dual layer authoring prevents any noticeable signs of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has an awe inspiring audio mix that drops the viewer right in the middle of the film's impressive battle scenes. Aggressive deployment of all of the discrete channels has sound effects careening around the soundstage. Heck, too much volume could blow out the walls and widows of a home theater, so be careful. Additionally, this track is no slouch in the subtle sound effects department, plus the well-recorded dialogue is crisply reproduced and manages to maintain intelligibility through the sonic assaults. Should you have any doubt by this point, let me say that the bass channel is simply explosive. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT includes some nicely designed interactive menus that make use of full motion video, animation and sound. Through the interactive menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some choice supplements. Director William Friedkin provides a running audio commentary that is informative and gives one an understanding of his methodology. A Look Inside is a series of interviews with cast and crewmembers that allows one to see the production from various viewpoints. RULES OF ENGAGEMENT also features a behind-the-scenes featurette that expands upon the interview section.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT is solid entertainment, that has been given a jaw dropping presentation by the folks at Paramount. If you are even just a little bit interested in this title, you can't go wrong by picking up this demonstration quality DVD.


 Rules of Engagement



DVD reviews are Copyright 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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