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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Occasionally strikes gold but eventually dries out."
4 stars

Every year or so, a big, serious studio movie thunders into view; the critics, tired of teen junk and overawed by any film remotely intended for adults, declare it a masterpiece and spill lots of magazine ink (cover stories, interviews tied to reviews, etc). 'Three Kings' is one such movie, and the surprise is that it's actually pretty good.

It has a distinctive look and feel, an atmosphere of burnout and chaos; it launches at a high energy level and generally stays there. The buzz, however, wears off fast. As with Natural Born Killers, the roughhouse style leaves an afterimage, but the serious points the film tries to make don't follow you home.

We're in Iraq, right after Operation Desert Storm has reached its anticlimax. Many of the soldiers stationed in the Gulf have been pumped up for combat, but it's been a smart-bomb, PlayStation war -- death from above, but not much excitement on the ground. We meet a few of these soldiers just marking time in the sand: nice guy Troy (Mark Wahlberg), born-again Chief (Ice Cube), callous redneck Vig (Spike Jonze), and cynical Special Forces captain Archie Gates (George Clooney). They're all itching for adventure, and they find it in a map that may lead to millions of dollars' worth of stolen Kuwaiti gold bullion hidden in one of Saddam's bunkers.

In a way, writer-director David O. Russell (who previously did the acclaimed indie comedies Spanking the Monkey and Flirting with Disaster) is itching for action, too. You can feel his excitement at painting on a broad canvas full of hair-trigger shootouts and exploding trucks. But I'm afraid he also wants us to consider the human cost of the same violence he thrills us with, and this doesn't always work. The movie shifts tones many times, and though that doesn't bother me, Three Kings loses some of its disreputable charge when it starts going human on us. Like many directors before him, Russell can't resolve the complex issue of anti-violence movie violence and our complicated response to it.

What we have here is an attempt at a thinking person's adventure film -- it even pauses to show us exactly what a bullet can do to a man's innards, the infected pockets of flesh filling with bile -- and on that level, compared with the stupid and meaningless concussive epics we usually get, Three Kings is near the head of its class. The characters are sketched in for us in a backhanded, wise-ass manner; the central figure, Archie Gates, is also the least developed -- he's your basic cynic who sticks his neck out for nobody, until he gradually learns compassion -- and George Clooney simply seems to be walking in the footsteps of a hundred change-of-heart anti-heroes before him. He knows how to take charge, though, and he and his fellow actors, in Archie's words, do whatever's necessary at any given moment.

While you're watching it, Three Kings feels like a hipper, bolder breed of war movie, with its hallucinatory left-out-in-the-sun photography (cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel did the honors) and its satirical swipes at American pop culture invading Iraq. Afterward, though, what you remember are the scenes of moral awakening that generally bring the movie to a dead stop. Three Kings begins like an action-comedy and ends as a message movie bucking for Oscars. It tells us that saving human lives (Archie and his crew eventually try to get some Iraqi refugees over the border to freedom) is nobler than grabbing the gold -- a comforting moral the American audience is always ready to hear, if not always to heed.

Greed and dictatorship: bad. Compassion: good. It doesn't take much to be a media masterpiece these days.

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originally posted: 01/11/07 14:10:52
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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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