Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson and the guy who did "The French Connection" (that's William Friedkin, by the way). With that lineup, what could possibly go wrong with "Rules of Engagement" (opening Friday, wide)? Besides having all the trappings of a trite military courtroom drama, probably not much. Based on a short story by James Webb (a former U.S. secretary of the Navy), the film follows the lives of two Vietnam vets (Jackson and Jones) whose paths cross many years later when one asks the other to defend him in court. Expect a lot of high-decibel screaming back and forth.
In other new movie releases this week:
Is there life after "The X-Files"? David Duchovny finds out this week by venturing into romantic-comedy territory with "Return to Me" (opening Friday, wide). The flick pairs Duchovny with a seemingly incongruous Minnie Driver in a improbably sappy plotline wherein a man falls in love with a woman whose life is saved by a heart transplant from his late wife. (Got that?) Expect to see Duchovny smile, wear a T-shirt and do lots of other things that Agent Mulder would never do -- albeit with a level of lingering austerity.
For those looking for something less dramatic and mushy, might we suggest the wrestling-themed flick "Ready to Rumble" (opening Friday, wide) with David Arquette, Scott Caan and Oliver Platt. Expect nothing.
In what seems another searching and ambitious but ultimately doomed attempt to make sense of the zeitgeist of our time comes "Black and White" (opening Wednesday, limited). Written and directed by James Toback ("Two Girls and a Guy"), the film seeks to explore the relationship between race and identity in today's youth culture. The ensemble cast includes Brooke Shields, Robert Downey Jr. and rappers Power, Raekwon and Method Man. Expect a befitting appearance by a verbose and articulate Mike Tyson. (Really.)
On the documentary front this week are: "This is Not an Exit" (opening Friday, New York only). The self-absorbed portrait of bad-boy author Bret Easton Ellis, who has made a career by upsetting the delicate sensibility of hidebound critics with novels of modern debauchery such as "Less Than Zero" and "American Psycho"; and, "Southpaw" (opening Friday, limited), about the against-all-odds life of Irish boxer Francis Barrett.
Other films opening in limited release Friday include: "East-West," (New York only)" Joe Gould's Secret," (New York only) "Me Myself I," (New York and Los Angeles only) and "Winter Sleepers" (Los Angeles only), the first feature of "Run Lola Run" stylemeister Tom Tykwer.