I have been swayed by adrenaline junkies and now cut more slack for action films that work best on the level of "turn off brain and go boom."
But a war-on-terror movie with 9/11 stamped all over it? One that's being released near the sixth anniversary? You're not supposed to not think about that as you watch a Hollywood film where the good guys win a war they can't seem to win in real life?
An action film that was written as political commentary and then studio-massaged into a high-calibre turkey shoot, The Kingdom is Rambo pretending to be politically aware.
And if you're able to appreciate it on that level, then this film is for you. Director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) has delivered on his thrill-promise to the studio, from a terrorist attack that kills hundreds of American oil workers and their families in a Saudi Westerners' compound, to the cowboy shoot-outs that a handful of FBI agents wage against Islamic extremist homeboys, to an almost Zucker-Brothersesque final battle on the streets of Riyadh that is so over-the-top it appears everybody in the city is armed, not just with automatic weapons, but with rocket launchers.
It's all wrapped in Berg's au courant shaky-camera style, that to some people represents fluid movement, and to others represents fluid regurgitation.
In real life, of course, Saudi Arabia is where it's at, jihad-wise. The 9/11 hijackers were almost all Saudi, as is Osama Bin Laden. Osama is still on the loose after six years, whereas in The Kingdom, a team of Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and Chris Cooper can track down an Osama in a matter of days in a country they've never been in, where they stand out like pork chops at an Eid feast.
Which is fine, it is a movie after all. But -- and this is just me wasting my time thinking again -- maybe they should spend less time making movies about catching terrorist masterminds and more time actually catching them.
In The Kingdom, Foxx plays FBI investigator Ronald Fleury, who just happens to take a last-moments-of-life call from his best friend on the scene of said mammoth bombing. And if the action-film revenge motif is good enough to be repeatedly spoofed on The Simpsons (Mendoza!), it's good enough to be recycled here.
Soon the above-named team is shipped to Riyadh with little freedom and a firm deadline to solve the bombing. They've all got their character quirks. Foxx, surprisingly, doesn't get to schtick, that job being handed over to designated wiseguy Bateman. Cooper is the good-ol'-boy and Garner is there to offend the sensibilities of the local Wahhabites.
As Fleury says "investigating is what we do best," and so of course, the resentful Saudi police and military officials are soon having their investigative butts handed to them by the Americans.
They win the respect of the movie's "good Muslim," Col. Al Ghazi (Israeli actor Ashraf Barhom), and we have the antagonists-become-allies vibe that has worked so well for so long on the action-movie template.
Maybe there is a place for The Kingdom. After all, if we can't make meaningless action films that invoke the most traumatic event of this century, then the terrorists will have won.
(This film is rated 18-A)