‘The Kingom’ movie review: Jamie Foxx stars in CSI: Riyadh

Peter Berg´s The Kingdom is little more than CSI: Riyadh, as it´s been tagged in numerous reviews, though the film works quite nicely as a police procedural with a middle-eastern twist and a couple slam-bang action sequences.

Nicely filmed by director Berg, taking a page from the Paul Greengrass school of action flicks; film particularly recalls the last two Bourne movies, with shaky-cam techniques and rapid-fire editing well employed.

Those looking for action may be let down by a lengthy investigative midsection, but the film delivers the goods by the end with a heart pounding twenty-minute sequence that begins with a kidnapping and doesn´t let up till the bad guys are dead.

Film opens with one of its better set pieces, as terrorists in Saudi Arabia bomb an American housing compound during the middle of a softball game, leaving a hundred dead.

Despite normal protocol, FBI directors negotiate to send a team of agents (Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, and a wisecracking Jason Bateman) to Saudi Arabia to ‘observe´ the investigation.

This quickly turns to full-fledged involvement, as the US agents prove to be more skilled and capable of handling the investigation than their Saudi counterparts.

Cast is rock-solid, though Cooper feels underused; Bateman and Ashraf Barhom (as Colonel Al Ghazi, head of the investigation on the Saudi side) give eye-opening performances. Jeremy Piven, however, is only a distraction in a smallish role.

A good police procedural with some pulsating action scenes, but ultimately, the film lacks depth; though a lot of interesting topics are touched on (US/Saudi relations, Garner´s role as a female authority figure in a Muslim country) few are truly fleshed out.

Final scenes, including a you-kill-us-we-kill-you cycle of violence message, feel a bit unnecessary and heavy-handed. Still, an intelligent and realistic action film such as this one is a rare thing and well worth seeing.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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