11 December 2007 | philipmahoney2001
Inside every big Hollywood movie in an interesting movie trying to get out
There is much to like in The Kingdom. Nice performances, a slightly-new take on the buddy-cop story, Jennifer Garner's upper lip, and some excellent action set pieces. However, halfway through watching it, it occurred to me that it would in fact have been a much more interesting film if none of the stars were in it. Which was little odd, because I am very fond indeed of Jennifer Garner's upper lip.
The plot is this: There is a big terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia. Some FBI agents led by Jamie Foxx, fast talk and bamboozle their way into the country to investigate, where they team up with two Saudi cops. There then follows a small amount of detective work, some interesting political manoeuvring and two really rather well-done shoot outs.
Now, I like Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper and Jennifer Garner('s upper lip) who play the FBI agents, and although all three do the best they can with the material they are given, no effort is made to make their characters interesting. What's worse, although they aren't interesting, they are nevertheless vastly superior to everyone else. Thus nearly every single advance in the case is made by these three. They are the ones who solve everything.
The two Saudi cops, on the other hand, are interesting characters. Two good cops working in a corrupt, brutal system. Trying to solve a horrific crime whilst faced with hostility from their fellow officers and political interference from above. What's more, they're human. They have weaknesses and fears. They make mistakes.
And that's what occurred to me. I thought to myself that this film would almost certainly be more interesting and entertaining if the whole idea about the FBI agents had been removed, and instead, we'd just been following the wily but unfailingly polite Colonel Al Ghazi and his loyal sidekick Sergeant Haytham as they tried to solve the crime. Instead, once the FBI turn up, these two get relegated to standing to one side and looking suitably impressed every time one of the names-above-the-title stars does something brilliant.
Right at the start of the film, Jennifer Garner's character (ably assisted by her upper lip) makes a comment about how if the Saudi's allowed the FBI into the country to investigate the crime, it could prove to be enormously destructive. If only the film makers had listened to her.
It's not that the Kingdom is a bad film. In fact, it's actually a rather good film. I just think that if they'd dropped the stars, it could have been much better.