Volume 93, Issue 23

Thursday, October 7, 1999


Weekend Pass


2P4H is 2 good 4 words

Three Kings boasts a full house

Buie jumps to reel world

Brand new Garth, same old Mellencamp


Three Kings boasts a full house

Photo by Murray Close
ALL RIGHT GUYS, WE DO THE RUGGED SQUINT ON TWO. George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jones practice their Dirty Harry stares in Three Kings.

Three Kings
George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube
Directed By:David O. Russell

By Anthony Turow
Gazette Staff

Occasionally a movie comes along which is entirely original, a film which not only entertains the pants off of you, but does so in a fresh, unique way. Writer/director David O. Russell's Three Kings is such a film.

Set at the end of the Gulf War, the film is about a group of soldiers who find a map detailing the whereabouts of stolen Kuwaiti gold wedged in an Iraqi POW's ass. The soldiers plan to retrieve the gold so they can quit the military and live the good life. From such an elegantly simple setup the film branches out wonderfully, mixing dark comedy, action packed war scenes, serious political commentary and some of the most breathtaking visuals ever seen on film.

Credit Russell for keeping nearly every aspect of Three Kings well balanced. His last picture, the criminally underrated comedy Flirting With Disaster, proved he has what it takes to juggle an ensemble cast with strong source material on limited funds. Three Kings' larger budget allows Russell to do some dazzling things in terms of visuals and special effects.

Battle scenes are tension filled, exciting and refreshingly original because they refuse to adhere to convention – there are no clearly drawn "good" or "bad" guys here, everyone's a rogue. Visuals are also appropriately grainy, sometimes morphing into jaw-dropping effects shots which actually show the havoc bullets can wreak on internal organs.

The cast must also be credited for their excellent performances. George Clooney is appropriately gruff as a general two weeks away from retirement who sees the gold in the desert as his one chance to nab the big prize.

Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg are also good as soldiers in on the heist. Ice Cube hits the right note as an ordinary Joe who sees the opportunity as his ticket out of his job as an airport baggage handler.

As a new father divided between risking his life to provide for his kin and just wanting to get home unharmed, Wahlberg deftly mixes light comedic moments with challenging, dramatic scenes.

The real hidden treasure of Three Kings , however, is the acting of Spike Jonze, infamously known as the hyperactive leader of the Torrance Community Dance Troupe in the Fatboy Slim video, "Praise You." Here, Jonze acts similarly goofy as a gun happy hick who enrolled in the force for the opportunity to fire off bigger, better guns. He provides many of the comic high points, but manages to avoid turning his performance into a caricature.

Don't go expecting merely a light-hearted romp, however, as Three Kings has bigger fish to fry. It's equal parts action movie, social commentary and comedy, with each element given equal emphasis. There is some very disturbing violence, but it's excellently used to depict the brutality of war, not Hollywood gratuity.

One word of advice – get to the desert because these Kings are pure cinematic royalty.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999