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New on DVD: 'The Kingdom' and 'Eastern Promises'

'The Kingdom' offers up a foreign-policy lesson amid lots of gunfire. A London woman becomes deeply enmeshed in the inner workings of the Russian mafia in 'Eastern Promises.'

January 4, 2008



The Kingdom (R)

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The bulk of the action in this Peter Berg-directed flick arrives late and in a hail of gunfire. Whether you make it to that pay-off punch will depend, to a large degree, on how much recycled police procedural you can stomach. The plot: a bombing in Saudi Arabia leaves a whole score of Americans dead. The top brass in Washington, D.C., wants to let the Saudis handle the aftermath on their own terms, but for FBI agent Ronald Fleury, that ain't going to fly. Doing his best impression of American Cowboy, he rounds up his team, and a lot of guns, and – amid a few scenes of not-so-witty-banter – jets across the ocean to solve the crime. (Now entering Fantasyland – doors open on your right.) Warner Brothers originally billed "The Kingdom" as a timely political thriller first, and an action movie second. As many other reviewers have noted, it's the other way around. Still, it's a gripping enough ride, once the train gets rolling. Extras are minimal. Grade: B– –Matthew Shaer

Eastern Promises (R)

This London-based mafia film starts with a barber who seems to think he's Sweeney Todd. And it just gets gorier. A David Cronenberg movie without a ketchup budget would be like a John Ford movie without horses. Yet there are notes of tenderness in this tale about Anna (Naomi Watts), a nurse who discovers that a prostitute who died during childbirth had connections to the mafia. Anna's primary contact in the underworld is a mob chauffeur (Viggo Mortensen) who is torn between duty to his masters and his affection for the nurse. The film doesn't probe the attrition that bloodshed has on a man's moral sensibilities as deeply as Cronenberg's "A History of Violence," but as a thriller it's tightrope taut. Grade: B+ Stephen Humphries

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