Three Kings (1999)

threekings_1999_poster
Three Kings (1999)
  • Time: 114 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Comedy
  • Director: David O. Russell
  • Cast: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube

Storyline:

A small group of adventurous American soldiers in Iraq at the end of the Gulf War are determined to steal a huge cache of gold reputed to be hidden somewhere near their desert base. Finding a map they believe will take them to the gold, they embark on a journey that leads to unexpected discoveries, enabling them to rise to a heroic challenge that drastically changes their lives.

One review

  • Three Kings is shot like a dream and maybe it is. Maybe the Gulf War has just been one long hallucination, a diversion in the desert. It’s 1991, the war has come to an end and the soldiers are playing to the cameras. The most action these boys have seen is watching the war they were just fighting on CNN. It’s a media war more than anything else. Who knows what the war means anyway? Not Adriana Cruz (Nora Dunn) who only knows that, whatever it is, she’s gotta cover it. If only her escort Special Forces Captain Archie Gates (George Clooney) wasn’t so busy screwing her competition and trying to ditch her at every opportunity.

    Well, Archie’s got a plan. He’s two weeks away from retirement and the horde of gold bullion Saddam snatched from the Kuwaiti rebels would make a tasty honey pot. He’s got the plan and the map of the bunkers with the bullion is in the possession of Army Sergeant Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Staff Sergeant Chief Elgin (Ice Cub) and Private Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze). They just have to drive there, get the bullion and drive out. Saddam’s more concentrated on quelling the rebel uprising, he’s not as worried about his bullion. Besides, he has other treasures (computers, televisions, stereo systems, jewelry, etc.) to keep him rolling in the green.

    When Barlow hesitates, Archie clears it up for all of them: “Saddam stole it from the sheiks; I have no problem stealing it from Saddam. Just one stash would be easy to take. . .and that would be enough to get us out of our day jobs – unless you reservists are in love with your day jobs.” That would be a no. “We three kings be stealing the gold,” Vig sings.

    Here’s the problem: when they get to the bunker guarded by Captain Sa’id (Said Taghmaoui) and his compatriots, they also uncover rebels being held as prisoners. The Americans clear the prisoners, one being Amir (Cliff Curtis) the rebel leader, but Saddam’s men will have none of it. They continue abusing the prisoners in plain sight of the Americans, with whom they have a ceasefire. When Amir’s wife is senselessly gunned down, the equation changes. The Americans trade bullets with Saddam’s men and pandemonium breaks.

    The Americans, with bullion and rebel prisoners in tow, narrowly miss being claimed by hidden and visible land mines only to be felled by gas bombs. When the gas fog lifts, Barlow has been taken prisoner by Saddam’s men and the rebels have ushered Archie, Chief and Vig into safety and recovered as much of the bullion as possible. Of course they have to return to recover Barlow. Amir offers his help. In exchange, the Americans must help them cross the Iranian border.

    It’s an unusual combination director David O. Russell, adapting a John Ridley story, attempts but he’s deliriously successful. It’s a buddy movie, a heist, an action thriller, a political commentary, a farce. All this with punchy dialogue and a hyperkinetic visual style. Some would probably deem it Tarantinoesque; while that viewpoint is valid, it is also limited. If anything, Russell pays more of an homage to Jonze, known for his award-winning music videos and his directorial debut Being John Malkovich. Like Jonze, Russell, takes a conventional genre (or genres in this case) and subverts it while working within the framework.

    The actors combine to make an airtight ensemble. Clooney offers his dash with grizzle, Wahlberg and Ice Cube prove what naturals they are and add extra dimension to their acting range. Jonze is endearing in a highly creditable acting debut. There’s also notable work by Curtis and Taghmaoui. At first, both seem like peripheral characters but they prove to be more entrenched in the scheme of the film. Taghmaoui, in particular, commands his scenes with Wahlberg with seesawing shades of menace and empathy. Enemies may have more in common with each other than they’re willing to admit but even that commonality is used to justify a war where all sides want the same thing but are willing to kill each other for it.

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