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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 23.27%
Average: 12.87%
Pretty Bad: 1.98%
Total Crap: 4.46%

13 reviews, 124 user ratings

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Three Kings
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by MP Bartley

"Will someone just send a copy of this to Dubya please?"
5 stars

Still dark. Still funny. Still clever. Still relevant. Still brilliant.

It's funny how history repeats itself isn't it?

When 'Three Kings' was first released it was seen as a scabrous black comedy whch said things no-one else had ever dared to say in film regarding the Iraq war. It was hilarious, yet uncomfortable, but at least we could all sit back and say, "hey, at least we've all learned our lesson".

Hmm...then George W decided to release his sequel "Gulf War 2: Revenge of the Son" and everything that was relevant then is sadly more relevant now. 'Three Kings' now stands as a film that was a timely history lesson, but also an unfortunately ignored warning..

Major Archie Gates (George Clooney) is still in Iraq after combat operations have ended, but is seeking a little extra pay-off. His chance comes when three of his troopers, Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Elgin (Ice Cube) and Conrad (Spike Jonze) find a map concealed on an Iraqi prisoner of war. The map details where Sadaam has hidden his stockpile of stolen Kuwaiti gold. Gates and company have no qualms about stealing it back from Sadaam and set off to pick up the gold on the quiet and return as millionaires. Things don't go quite to plan however as they become embroiled in a fight between Iraqi military and innocent villagers.

'Three Kings' is proof of what happens when you give a maverick director (David O. Russell) a seemingly generic script. 'Three Kings' could have been a horribly macho, flag-waving piece of turd (think how Michael Bay would have directed this). Russell, however turns his script smartly between black humour, action, politics and emotion, all the while keeping tight control of the film. Take a scene of Clooney trying to raise the support of some rebel militia. What would have been a nauseating 'Go America!' scene under Bay, is instead perfectly undercut by the response of the Iraqi's and Clooney's response back. It seems that in 'Three Kings' money does make the world go round.

But Russell doesn't beat you over the head with his political commentary and criticism, it's perfectly layered into the story. A scene involving Mark Wahlberg tied to a chair and an Iraqi soldier has some of the most pertinent critical dialogue of the war, but starts off as a question about Michael Jackson before veering off into something much more horrifying. It's a powerful, gut-wrenching scene that is easily the equal of the Russian roulette scene in 'The Deer Hunter'.

There's points made about America (Bush specifically) abandoning the innocent Iraqi's and how Archie is motivated by greed instead of genuine concern, but never to the detriment of the rest of the film. This may well be the funniest war film since 'MASH'. From the clueless and bored American grunts wondering if they should shoot people or clean sand out of their eyes first, to the more bizarre hoardings of the Iraqi's to a hilarious scene detailing the home jobs of the 3 troopers (the red-neck Conrad's nostalgic view of home life is worth your time alone), 'Three Kings' has a wicked sense of mischievous humour both jet-black and a mile wide.

And if Russell's follow-up has been a return to his indie/comedy roots (I Heart Huckabees), then he shouldn't forgot that he's a darn fine action director too. Because as critical and as funny as this film is, it also kicks much ass in the action stakes. There's a shoot-out in a village which reinvents the Mexican standoff in a way that Woo, Tarantino or Rodriguez haven't even began to imagine and a helicopter scrap that's like a lovechild of 'Die Hard' and pre-empts 'Black Hawk Down'. Russell aims at several targets in one audacious script and nails them all dead on. His style is awesome from moving the deserts away from the gorgeous vistas of 'Lawrence of Arabia' to something much more drained and baking hot, to a graphic illustration of what happens when you get shot.

And that's before we even get to a cast that's simply the icing on the cake. Cliff Curtis is very good as a rebellious villager, full of anger and wounded pride and Saiid Tamagouchi nearly steals the film as the soldier interrogating Wahlberg. Wahlberg however, uses his innocent fresh-faced looks to good effect as the least cynical soldier who gets his eyes opened to the truth in more ways than one. Jonze should do more acting jobs as his dim Conrad is a hoot (he thinks bullion is something that soup is made out of) and Cube avoids all the usual cliches of a black sidekick to make Elgin more of a tough guy.

And then there's Clooney, further cementing his screen presence after 'Out Of Sight'. His Gates is full of disgust for what he's seen and cynicism of the army life, but human enough to be unable to resist the Iraqi villagers plea for help.

It's tribute to both Clooney and the film, that this change of character and change of mission doesn't become sappy or sentimental, but natural and right. This results in an ending which avoids all traps of manipulation and stirs the emotions in the right way.

'Three Kings' is a film that will firmly stand the test of time. Perhaps the reason it wasn't the roaring success it should have been at the time, is because it was too timely and too honest in prodding at wounds that had barely healed. But it demands a re-watch now more than ever. Time will eventually decide that not only is 'Three Kings' a great history lesson, it's a great war film/comedy and one of the best films that the 90's ever produced.

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originally posted: 10/29/04 23:24:50
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good war flick 4 stars
8/20/09 Jeff Wilder Very good overall even if ti does get a bit preachy in spots. 5 stars
7/08/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* A super enjoyable movie to watch. Great plot, great action, and awesome acting! 5 stars
2/20/09 Nolvia Seron Vargas Y loveOr I love Jerry Panenka, someone can say to him(her)? 5 stars
8/28/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 5 stars
3/07/07 Frank Rountree Absolute Crap, offensive to veterans who served. 1 stars
10/19/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 3 stars
9/15/06 Booksworm Had a kind of six o'clock news feel to it, didn't it? Good movie. 4 stars
6/12/06 Jerome Bosch Norah Dunn ruined it, what a cunt. 3 stars
1/04/06 WISEMAN I dont know any one who didnt like this movie, Lets watch it again!!! 5 stars
5/25/05 Jake David O. Russell's MASTERPIECE! 5 stars
2/09/05 Jeff Anderson DAVID O. RUSSELL'S TRUEST MASTERPIECE! A rare film that shows what a modern war is like!!!! 5 stars
11/07/04 One more paranoid American No bleedin heart's gonna tell me looting Iraq is bad, it's like being Robin Hood. 1 stars
10/30/04 Jack Bourbon Pretty average. Pointless wankery. 3 stars
9/24/04 Agent Sands One of my favorite movies ever. Hilarious, violent, provocative, George Clooney. 5 stars
5/26/04 miranda loved it 5 stars
3/19/04 john great premise and interessting theme.It should have been great but just isn't - too bad 3 stars
1/07/04 beautie well its a --------MOVIE!!!!! 3 stars
11/29/03 Henrik Widell What a load of crap! watched this movie yesterday and thought it was the worst ever! 1 stars
10/26/03 Humvee Dumpty Has its quite poignant moments if you don't mind overall ambiguous message. 4 stars
6/19/03 JoeSco Great film with non stop action & humour - Realistic weapons results for a change 5 stars
3/31/03 spacecowboy sweeet 5 stars
3/17/03 Peter A superb portrayal of modern wars. Reveals that not everything we believe is true. 5 stars
2/25/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" lyrik GREAT movie. 5 stars
9/19/02 Sarah Absolutely Wicked! 5 stars
8/22/02 MaIniYaK EXCELLENT MOVIE 5 stars
7/25/02 Tabitha Jean Lots of gold, but where's the frankincense and myrrh? 4 stars
6/10/02 Francis weird, interesting, but not that good 3 stars
3/13/02 Humvee Dumpty Has its quite poignant moments if you don't mind overall ambiguous message. 4 stars
3/02/02 Alan Smithee Original and highly entertaining filmmaking. 5 stars
1/06/02 daniboy truly, a classic. one of the greatest war films ever (even though the war was over) 5 stars
1/01/02 Lainey I could watch it again. 5 stars
10/10/01 Butterbean A great war film without any over-the-top antics, or corny ass speeches from some general. 4 stars
9/17/01 Rebecca Wahlberg the almost killed mark 5 times! I cried when they almost killed him, all5 times! 4 stars
9/14/01 Bront simply the best of everything in one movie 5 stars
8/15/01 vpitman Americans doing bad things? Men following their conscience? 5 stars
8/12/01 Dakamus Why this movie was totally overlooked at the Academy Awards is beyond me. 5 stars
6/14/01 Gary Excellent. Wahlberg & Clooney are great. Not a classic but still fucking awesome. 5 stars
5/30/01 Bada Bing Crosby Smart, thoughtful and great. A beautiful war movie, if that's possible 5 stars
5/12/01 The Moorhen One of the best movies I've seen this year. I loved it. 5 stars
5/04/01 Freak-77 Brilliant 5 stars
4/29/01 richard wong see the ass of the small suck by the man 5 stars
4/19/01 Tam The best scenes of this film were in the trailer. If you didnt see this, u didnt miss much. 3 stars
2/15/01 jk great film but they didn't set him on fire with thwe oil...bit of a shame 5 stars
2/11/01 Phil M. Afficianado Only "A" films blend drama/humor, escape/reality, mood/character like this one did. 5 stars
1/26/01 Bodhi An anti-war action caper comedy with a political perspective.Original,unique,brilliant. 5 stars
1/15/01 Action freak Great flick, I especially loved the bullet in the guts part. 5 stars
1/13/01 Jake Loved it 5 stars
1/13/01 Avenger Girl A lame rip of kelly? 1 stars
1/12/01 Matt69 This movie kicked fucking ass. 5 stars
1/02/01 Msitrab EXCELLENT 5 stars
12/22/00 joh This is a great movie, even the tidy ending didn't ruin it 5 stars
10/25/00 JC23 This is the best film of 1999 5 stars
9/27/00 mephetic Heartfelt and very emotional. Is this a love story or a war move? Still, its a great movie. 5 stars
9/18/00 Jed Very good movie. Not the best but certainly not the worst of 1999. 4 stars
9/04/00 The Extreaminizer One of 1999's Best...Great Camera, Acting, Action, Comedy, and Drama...Downright Excellent 5 stars
8/08/00 lily percy The absolute coolest, most kick ass film that I have seen in a while. It blew me away. 5 stars
7/31/00 Trevor Vos Best movie of 1999 - best war movie ever 5 stars
6/26/00 stranded on the Island Excellent attention to detail. DVD extras are awesome! Best (only?) gulf war film. 5 stars
6/20/00 JC A superb film, one of last years best. 5 stars
5/16/00 Jed Basically its what you get if you mixed "Good will hunting" & a episode of M.A.S.H. 4 stars
5/08/00 Joe Smaltz Waste of film and my time. Another Istar! 1 stars
4/25/00 Girl9 Nothing spectacular, but will hold your attention. Some interesting visual effects. 3 stars
4/24/00 Trina Barnard It's worth it just to see Clooney in BDU's! 4 stars
4/22/00 KoHawk Great, Realistic Movie 5 stars
4/22/00 Bruce One of 1999's truly great movies 5 stars
4/17/00 punkass Creative, funny and original, never too heavy handed but not quite there at the end 4 stars
4/16/00 arnold fantastic movie 5 stars
3/10/00 Peter Pan Lot of action (sometimes absurd, but exciting) 4 stars
3/10/00 Add So over rated, sure there were some really cool bits but the rest of the time its BORING!!! 2 stars
3/10/00 Matthew Bartley Some scenes don't work but it's still a great movie 5 stars
2/08/00 Andi Randell Mark, George & Ice Cube awesome combination 5 stars
1/29/00 John Which cell phone service operates 200 feet underground in the middle of a desert? 1 stars
1/29/00 jody the movie couldn't decide what it was comdey,action adventure, drama and it was not all 3 2 stars
1/24/00 JonnyAngel One of last years best- (can't wait for the DVD) 5 stars
1/17/00 Will I liked it dammit 5 stars
1/16/00 Joel Harwood A cinematic master piece 5 stars
1/15/00 Mic I'm much more comfortable with a 4-star system. This is actually about 3.5 out of 5 stars. 3 stars
1/15/00 Jerry Panenka Why isn't anybody from the media asking Mr.Bush about abandoning of the Iraquis 5 stars
1/13/00 heroinchic ICE CUBE! Who ever heard of such a stupid name? Why not FROZEN WATER or MAKES DRINKS COLD? 4 stars
11/29/99 Crystal Fleming Great suspense and great laughs 5 stars
11/11/99 Dinks Kicked Ass!! 5 stars
10/27/99 pipeman Promising start with a steady decline to a predictible hollywood ending. Disapointing. 3 stars
10/26/99 Lady Taz This film kicked butt!! 5 stars
10/26/99 RJohnson I was entertained. It was a fun movie. 4 stars
10/21/99 H'Woodbigshot Was there a Gulf War?Did we win? 1 stars
10/17/99 JimBob good entertainment 4 stars
10/14/99 BillDog Awful. Just plain awful. 1 stars
10/14/99 swonkdog fscking awesome! a totally surreal adventure. 5 stars
10/14/99 phypor very smart, witty, action with good drama and gut wrenching humor 5 stars
10/13/99 B. Kutz Any movie with a cow exploding is worth a look 5 stars
10/13/99 Wolfyboy A movie that plays on most of the emotions very fuckin awesome 5 stars
10/12/99 lester a stinker disguised as film art 1 stars
10/12/99 Scott A very entertaining action flick, although the story didn't flow as well as it could have. 4 stars
10/11/99 nate Brilliant film. Only downer was there was no funky bunch to accompany Marky Mark. 5 stars
10/10/99 Z arg! the bile! thank gud I didn't have lunch... 3 stars
10/09/99 John M See this movie. Period. 5 stars
10/09/99 Alyssa Loved the cow - hated the flashback to E.R. and the lung valve! Great movie!!! 5 stars
10/08/99 C.A.T.M. Every single ingredient in this film is perfection !! 5 stars
10/07/99 SJKelley See how a very good beginning missteps in Acts II and III. 3 stars
10/07/99 Justin the Fight Clubber Screw Bullet-Time, Seeing Iraqies get shot one by one without a single American dying - Wow 5 stars
10/07/99 PhilmPhreak Trys to do to many things and kinda succeeds at some of them. 3 stars
10/06/99 Nick Z Different sort of war flick, but too much mis-information for this ex-non com. 3 stars
10/06/99 sophia962 How to keep your soul in the face of CNN -- No cheap or easy answers 5 stars
10/06/99 Glenn Moss I love to read reviews from director-wannabe's. Seems that there is more than a little env 4 stars
10/06/99 Fork Not the conventional action movie (has a heart) but still maintained some of the dressings. 4 stars
10/05/99 Jeff Michels !!! 5 stars
10/05/99 JumpinJoe This movie ROCKED!!!! Great Cinematography, dialogue...a lot of heart!! 5 stars
10/05/99 phypor very excellen-story, acting, action, dialog... 5 stars
10/05/99 rob Excellent,powerful,intelligent. When did George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg turn into actors? 4 stars
10/04/99 MovieMaven Thoughtful action film -- who woulda thunk it? 5 stars
10/04/99 mard lack of stereotypes make the moview worth viewing 4 stars
10/04/99 chris jericho this movie kicks ass 5 stars
10/04/99 some one An attemt to be many different things...and ends up being shizophrenic. 2 stars
10/03/99 PyroFLA A masterful combination of action, drama, comedy and morality. What a great movie! 5 stars
10/03/99 Wyatt Earp Damned Good Movie 5 stars
10/03/99 mr yank it is NOT f'in awesome-wait for video! 2 stars
10/03/99 majawat fun to watch, if only for the stupid people in it. 4 stars
10/03/99 Brian Carnell Excellent film, but does drag a bit at the end 5 stars
10/02/99 sydney the second-best movie of the year! 5 stars
10/01/99 The King I loved this movie better than anything you will see this year. I say OSCAR time! 5 stars
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  01-Oct-1999 (R)
  DVD: 03-Feb-2004

  03-Mar-2000 (15)
  DVD: 18-Sep-2000

  13-Jan-2000 (MA)

Directed by
  David O. Russell

Written by
  John Ridley

  George Clooney
  Mark Wahlberg
  Ice Cube
  Spike Jonze
  Nora Dunn

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