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There's a lot of bloodshed in "The Kingdom." There's a lot of dying, death, near death, pain, hardship, cruelty, destruction, weeping, pity, anger, terror -- and it's all filmed so entertainingly! "The Kingdom," set in Saudi Arabia after 9/11, has it all. It's got history (but not too much on the actual screen). It's got timeliness (terrorism isn't going out of the news cycle any time soon). And it's got plenty of action, beginning with a couple of big explosions and continuing with the investigation, led by a crack FBI team featuring all of today's hottest stars and character actors, who'll be able to add some colorful fun and keep the story from becoming a "downer." And best of all, it's based on a true story, more or less.
Don't worry, though, "The Kingdom" isn't going to bore you with the how and why. It'll just gloss over the background in a helpful montage that will brief anyone not familiar with (a) Saudi Arabia's sociopolitical makeup, (b) how its interests interlace with corporate America's or (c) where it is exactly. This isn't a history lesson, but a STORY, in all capital letters, about how one tenacious FBI agent (Jamie Foxx) won't let the ambassador's fawning bromides, the Saudi prince's finicky sensibilities or anything that might be construed as "the rules" keep him from running down the bad guys (or strafing them with automatic-weapons fire, whichever ends up being more cinematic).
The bad guys, or bad reejal, bomb a place called Riyadh Compound. All you need to know is they kill Americans in the middle of a baseball game. These terrorists are so evil they film the chaos and force their young to watch the destruction. Without popcorn! What kind of subhuman monsters are they?
Now Foxx's FBI team has to scrap and scheme to get in to investigate. Foxx has to personally reassure the prince that America might not be perfect, but investigating "is what we do." I mean, duh, hasn't he seen this fall's television lineup?
But then, just when we're sure we're standing on firm, patriotic ground, there's some timeout about how all this violence only leads to more. Taken with the intro that could have been written by Howard Zinn, the lesson would seem to be we should reconsider what we're doing in the region, but since we've already messed it up, it's OK to make a summer blockbuster about it. Hmm. Looks like if we want unbending, America-first movie morality, we'll have to wait at least until "John Rambo" comes out in February. (R) 150 min. SClick here for more Arts & Culture