Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: David O. Russell, based on the story by John Ridley
Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Nora Dunn, and Spike Jonze
I made the same mistake most other moviegoers did. I assumed incorrectly.
I perceived Three Kings to be yet another macho action picture.
The type of picture that eventually winds up on one of Ted Turner's cable
channels. You know the type: movies for guys who like movies. I couldn't
have been more wrong! David O. Russell's memorable picture is much more
than just a guy movie or a war picture; it successfully is able to mix
humor and drama resulting in one of those kind of pictures that can satisfy
both men and women audiences alike.
Not only is George Clooney able to follow up his breakthrough role in
Out of Sight with some superior work in a superior film, but Mark Wahlberg
proves that Boogie Nights was no fluke with some bravo supporting
work to the former ER star, while Ice Cube continues to show his versatility
as a performer. Unfortunately, like the recent Being John Malkovich,
moviegoers passed up this gem in favor of inferior Hollywood productions.
What they missed out on is another breath of fresh air in Tinseltown as
Russell's film addresses some serious issues while making us take a hard
look at what is truly important in our lives.
The director (who is probably best known for his inventive, 1996 commercial
outing Flirting with Disaster) should now be high up on future
wish lists thanks to this intelligent, compassionate piece of filmmaking,
which is much more than meets the eye. Don't get me wrong, these couple
of guys (as you'll quickly find out for yourself) are going for the big
score during a vulnerable time, but they discover a lot more about themselves
and others during their expedition full of deceit, dangers, and surprises
galore. By the end of their journey, we are rewarded with a satisfying
and fulfilling voyage of self-discovery.
The setting is post Gulf War (one of the few Hollywood films to touch
this subject besides Courage Under Fire) and four US Soldiers:
charismatic, and cool-as-ice Major Archie Gates (Clooney), compassionate
Sergeant Troy Barlow (Wahlberg), strong-minded Chief Elgin (Cube), and
master hick Private Conrad Vig (Malkovich director Spike Jonze) decide
to take advantage of wartime policy. They plan on stealing some gold bullion
from an Iraqi warehouse during a cease-fire agreement. They not only want
to stick it a little more to Saddam Hussein, but they also want to grab
a big piece of the good old American pie. It all makes sense to these
guys. Archie is about to retire and wants to go out in a blaze of glory,
while the rest of the youngsters need to build their future nest eggs.
Besides, they're stuck there in Iraq with a chance to get back at one
of the most despised men in the world (at least in 1991) who stole from
Our four heroes quickly figure out that although the war may have been
boring for many, there is a lot going on behind the scenes as the director
does a good job zooming in on the madness of this war. During their covert
operation, the boys witness Saddam's troops slaughtering Iraqi rebels
(who also want nothing to do with Hussein's ways). This daring group of
men may not have necessarily felt or understood the injustices going on
before, but they do now and they don't like it one bit. Even with the
chance to become immensely rich and get away with it, they choose to become
something else: heroes (in a Schindler's List way). Maybe they
won't be considered as such in the eyes of their own country, but they
will at least to a handful of poor people who are being unjustly persecuted
for what they believe in.
This is one action adventure/drama that works. Not only does the camerawork,
action sequences, and acting complement each other very nicely, but this
is the first picture in quite a long time where all the parties involved
(American and foreign entities) are treated with an equal measure of respect
and compassion. At least with regards to the unfortunate victims in this
unnecessary fiasco, we truly get to experience and feel what they're going
Sadly, the film would have probably been seen (initially) by more people
if moviegoers were more properly made aware that it was much more than
just a so-called war picture, or a film about a couple of greedy guys
planning a well-staged robbery. Come to think about it, it was really
about neither. It was a story about looking into your heart and doing
the right thing. Luckily for us, the soldiers in question decide to do
Three Kings is a little film that you think goes only in one direction,
but it delves much deeper and opens up a lot of issues to consider. Don't
get me wrong. As entertainment vehicles go, it's a highly charged, entertaining
piece of work, but Russell's screenplay (based on John Ridley's story)
is sharp and intelligent, and makes you ask questions about these kind
of wars and our involvement in them. Should we be here? Why? At what cost?
The film also takes the time to give us the other side of the story, which
helps fuel its impact.
Three Kings has a little of everything and is spearheaded by strong
performances across the board and an equally strong story. For those who
thought this was just a gold rush/treasure hunt type of picture, think
again! You'll realize that there's a lot more going on here. Find out
the next time you're at your local video store.