“Rules of Engagement” is in deep doo-doo with the Republic of Yemen. The Associated Press reported Thursday that the Yemenese government is displeased with the Samuel L. Jackson/Tommy Lee Jones‘ actioner’s inflammatory depiction of its citizenry, calling it a “barbaric and racist attack against Arabs and Yemenis.” Yemen is urging its neighbors in the Arab world to boycott the flick and its distributor, Paramount Pictures.
(Geography lesson: Formed in 1900 by the unification of North and South Yemen, the Republic of Yemen is located in Southwest Asia, on the South Arabian peninsula. The republic borders Saudi Arabia, Oman, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.)
The court-room drama, opened in the United States on April 7, focuses on a military trial wherein a Marine official (Samuel L Jackson) stationed in Yemen is charged with mass murder. Tommy Lee Jones plays his Vietnam-vet defense lawyer.
Specifically, the Yemenis say they’re ticked about the film’s depiction of a mob outside the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, in which several U.S. Marines are shot by demonstrators. In the film’s pivotal moment, Jackson orders his troops to open fire into a crowd of unarmed Yemeni civilians.
Although their gripes might sound well founded, one question remains: How does the Yemenese government know about the content of the film if it’s not even playing in Yemen?
“I think that [the Yemenese government] was aware of our reaction to the movie. And they probably heard about it through the grapevine. It’s a very big movie, and they knew it’s about Yemen,” Hussein Ibish, communications director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington, D.C., tells Hollywood.com.
“And [our organization] exercised maximum restraint and did not issue any judgment about the movie until we saw it,” says Ibish, whose group is organizing a protest against the film.
Ibish says Arab groups tried to avert the problem by making pleas to Paramount before the film’s release, but their overtures were ignored. Meanwhile, the studio defended the film in a statement this week: “The film is not an indictment of any government, culture or people.”