Three Kings

on October 01, 1999 by Annlee Ellingson
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   The Gulf War is over. Most American soldiers have seen little or no action. Rumor has it that Saddam has hoarded stolen treasures in bunkers in the Kuwaiti countryside--not just televisions, cell phones and silver utensils, but bars of solid gold.
   In an effort to secure his retirement just two weeks away, Archie Gates ("Out of Sight's" George Clooney) organizes a small band of plunderers to bust into a tiny village, intimidate the Iraqi guards with the strength of the American army and insure that the soldiers will never have to give up weekends to the National Guard for extra cash again. When they get there, however, they encounter a scene from which they cannot turn away: the imprisonment and torture of Kuwaiti citizens whom President Bush had urged to stand up against Saddam with the unkept promise of American support. Gates, Troy Barlow ("The Big Hit's" Mark Wahlberg), Chief Elgin ("The Player's Club's" Ice Cube) and Conrad Vig ("Being John Malkovich" director Spike Jonze) agree to help the people across the Kuwaiti border--an action prohibited by the peace treaty--before returning to camp with the stolen gold.
   Though his characters fit the stereotypes of soldiers spawned by countless war movies, writer-director David O. Russell ("Flirting with Disaster") graces them with fresh, funny dialogue (such as the ongoing debate about whether Lexus makes a convertible) and, with cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel ("The Usual Suspects"), tells their story with a grab-bag of visual tricks that help make up for the moments when the pace starts to lag. Russell makes each bullet count, countering what could easily have been become a glorification of violence by showing, literally, what happens physically and emotionally when someone gets shot.
   The major themes of the Gulf War--the controversy over whether the war was in fact about oil and the government's manipulation of the media and vice versa--are only touched on here in bits of dialogue and epilogue text; still, "Three Kings" is both entertaining and engaging as it reopens closed history books. Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube. Written and directed by David O. Russell. Produced by Paul Junger Witt and Charles Roven. A Warner Bros. release. Drama. Rated R for graphic war violence, language and some sexuality. Running time: 115 min
Tags: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, David O. Russell, Paul Junger Witt, Charles Roven, Warner Bros, Drama, Saddam, Kuwait, The Gulf War
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