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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Drama > Terrorism > Iraq > Action > The Kingdom (HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format)

The Kingdom (HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format)


Picture: B/B-     Sound: B/B-     Extras: D     Film: D



Who is the worst director in Hollywood?  Eli Roth?  Brett Ratner?  Peter Berg?


The competition is tougher than ever these days and you wonder where The Razzies are when you really need them.  Berg keeps making disasters for Universal and at the rate he is going, will remain a top contender for said title for years to come.  Not including his lame TV work, he has now helmed four remarkably awful feature films in a row: Very Bad Things, The Rundown, Friday Night Lights and now, The Kingdom.  That also includes the last three films being three of the worst films ever issued in the HD-DVD format and is the kind of thing The Blu-ray Group is rooting for.


In this amazingly condescending, smug, stupid, ignorant, idiotic, jerky, formulaic, sloppy, awful, brainless mess, this would-be action/war thriller gives us a digital history lesson with archive footage on how The Middle East struck oil and grew into the empire it is today, including U.S. and Islamo-Fascist involvement.  From a good filmmaker, this may have led to something, but instead, it turns into a constant assault of shaky camerawork, pointless denatured images and Matthew Michael Carnahan’s confused screenplay starts with an embarrassing scene establishing with sickly sweetness what a good guy Jamie Foxx’s character is.  I guess being an Oscar Winner and popular star was not enough for Carnahan or Berg.


Then the film moves on to a stereotypical terrorist attack and Foxx turns out to be one of many FBI agents on the way to investigate.  Like the pre-Spike Lee appearances of African American gang members in commercial Hollywood films, the portrayal of Islamic terrorists is shallow, tired and nothing short of war-baiting.  That this film presumes to take this angle as it feigns an inside look at the title location is a train wreck waiting to happen and actually manages to trivialize 9/11.


Play to shallow type and stereotype, Chris Cooper is here playing one of his tough guys roles yet again, Jennifer Garner (from Alias) stretches out her hero gal act so thin that it actually manages to outdo the awful Elektra and TV-safe Jason Bateman is the fourth agent, another actor known for playing a “good guy” rounding out the condescending “hey, here are the good guys” section of the film.


Then this goes on for 110 minutes where it gets worse, more condescending, pandering and grating beyond belief in its “fronting” on trying to get the audience on the side of the FBI, as if U.S. audiences would root against them.  The soullessness that permeates this hollow shell of a movie is also remarkably self-impressed with itself. 


Carnahan is the brother of the once-promising Joe Carnahan, who sent from Narc to nonsense with Smoking Aces, done in the same brain-dead, would-be high energy style of this film.  Fortunately, this bombed at the box office and we can only hope for a repeat on home disc shelves, et al.  It is also no surprise that Matthew Michael Carnahan wrote Robert Redford’s shocking short, condescending and failed Lions For Lambs, a “politics 101” exercise that thinks the audience is retarded and does not understand anything about what is happening in the U.S. in any way shape or form.  That was Tom Cruise’s first film release as the new owner of United Artists and as big misstep, though nowhere near as bad as this.


Oh, and Jeremy Piven shows up, which does not help the hip factor.  The whole cycle of films about the Iraq and related situations are five years too late, often bad and have all been dying a quick death at the box office.  Too bad it pulls down great films like Mike Nichols’ Charlie Wilson’s War, but that is the kind of mess Hollywood’s Left is in ideologically, including many artists I really like.  But leave it to Berg to try and be so pro-military that the film is quasi-Fascist in itself while trying to make some ultra-Liberal point in its conclusion.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 VC-1 digital High Definition image was shot with a mix of Super 35mm film that is often degraded and actual, lesser HD video that looks worse, plus anamorphically enhanced basic DVD side even poorer with less definition and detail, plus weaker Video Black.  Add the tired shaky camera work and sloppy editing and you have a visual mess that shows the once promising cinematographer Mauro Fiore (Training Day) has gone slowly fallen into decline (Tears of The Sun, The Island) and finally into the abyss of bad images, including Smokin’ Aces and this mess.  Hope he does better on James Cameron’s Avatar!


Despite being a supposedly dynamic new sound film, the only mix here is a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and not a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix, as if the makers knew their sound mix had issues.  Well, it does, with choppy sound editing and dialogue that is not always the best-recorded.  The soundfield also leaves something to be desired, even more apparent on the basic Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD side.  Oh, and Danny Elfman’s score is a tired disaster to boot.


Extras include the U-Control/HDi interactive capacity to see hidden extras and navigate the film better, a commentary by Berg that has to be heard to be believed, interactive timeline, dossier and deleted scenes in HD on the HD side, a featurette on the “freeway scene” and Creating The Kingdom featurette.  The one common thing they all had was a feeling of fraud about them.  I felt bad for the actors.



This is the worst thing the usually savvy Michael Mann will ever produce and it was recently announced that for no good reason, Universal suddenly wants to remake Dune despite David Lynch’s version and a respected recent TV mini-series version.  If the way Poseidon bombed for Warner Bros. after a TV movie only a few years before was quickly forgotten, imagine a berg version of the Herbert classic by Berg angering fans who actually read the book?  Can’t wait for that train wreck.  Until then, avoid this one like a plague.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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