“Three Kings” (1999) – 3.5/5 Stars


Personal and human interests butt heads in “Three Kings,” a Gulf War action flick from David O. Russell. Following the Gulf War cease-fire four soldiers (Clooney, Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Jonze) plan to take gold stolen by Saddam Hussein during the invasion of Kuwait so they can live well for the rest of their lives. What seems like a simple operation turns life-threatening when the soldiers run into a group of Iraqi refugees in desperate need of their help.

If “Three Kings” hadn’t been released years before George W. Bush and the Iraq War, it would’ve made a heck of a propaganda film. Much of the movie’s inner-conflict is created because of the discord between the greedy self-interests of the soldiers and their difficulty simply turning their backs on Iraqi refugees who would surely be killed by Saddam’s soldiers without them. The film calls on the humanitarian responsibility of countries such as the United States. In 1999 that’s just a thematic message, but in the context of 2003 or later, it would definitely come across as political.

But politics aside, Russell’s film is a very real one. “Three Kings” is more than just good suspense and a decent amount of thrilling explosions for this reason: it offers important moral questions and portrays soldiers as more than just men trained to “kill (insert any number of derogatory nicknames for Muslims here).” The characters are flawed men governed by self-interest, but they are challenged and tested throughout the film as we all are at times, just not within the context of danger and war.

Clooney, Wahlberg and Ice Cube all convey the inner tension fairly well, although the film still thrives mostly upon action and suspense rather than dramatic performances. Russell does make some excessive or bizarre choices, such as a C.S.I-like graphic of one of the character’s insides — guts and all — after he sustains a bullet wound, but Russell mostly exercises good taste.

“Three Kings” is an effective morality tale set in a modern war context and fitted with gunshots and explosions. It’s solid film with something good to say.

3.5/5 Stars

Three Kings (1999)
Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: John Ridley, David O. Russell
Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze


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