Three Kings (1999) starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Cliff Curtis, Nora Dunn, Jamie Kennedy, Saïd Taghmaoui directed by David O. Russell Movie Review

Three Kings (1999)   4/54/54/54/54/5

George Clooney and Archie Gates in Three Kings (1999)

Clooney & Wahlberg are as Cool as Ice

As war movies go "Three Kings" is an experience I doubt you will forget because it is simply different. Shifting from tone we have dark humour, patriotism, gung ho soldiers, compassion, deep realisation and friendship as well as some of the most impressive visuals you will ever see. The action is limited and when it arrives it is brief, the dialogue goes from real to cliche as do the characters and basically it sounds like a complete and utter jumble. Yet it works, director David O. Russell has crafted a movie which from the start grabs you and as it evolves, mixing humour with drama it never lets you go.

With the Gulf War almost over 4 soldiers decide that they are going to line their own pockets by trying to steal stolen gold bullion from Saddam's bunkers. With a map retrieved from the butt crack of an Iraqi soldier they follow the trail to where the gold should be but what they encounter is not just gold but also the poor treatment of Iraqi people and rebels by Saddam's soldiers forcing them to make a decision.

Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg in Three Kings (1999)

So what is "Three Kings" about, that is a very good question because this is a movie which evolves. The opening which sees American troops dealing with surrendering Iraqi soldiers is darkly funny, from the way the troops behave, the way they speak and refer to he Iraqi's and more importantly we get the scene where they discover a map between the butt cheeks of an Iraqi soldier. What follows for anyone who knows their movies feels a little like an update on "Kelly's Heroes" as we have a quartet of soldiers lead by Archie Gates planning to use the butt map to steal stolen Kuwaiti gold bullion from Saddam's bunkers.

But whilst "Three Kings" starts like an update on this familiar storyline of troops planning to give themselves a little extra now the war is over it evolves. It evolves because when they hit the first bunker they discover Iraqi prisoners and rebel leaders being poorly treated by Saddam's men and face the decision of what to do, steal the gold and run or steal the gold and help the Iraqi people. There is still plenty of quirky humour going on through out this, a cow being blown up may not sound funny but it is one of many darkly funny scenes which take you by surprises which litter the movie.

But I could go on because "Three Kings" keeps on evolving as Archie and his men end up fighting a war with Saddam's men despite war being officially over. There is action, drama, a lot more humour and a whole range of seemingly daft scenes which add to the strange mix of styles. Let's put it this way when one of the men discover a box full of phones you get a scene which should be so wrong, so daft that it will never work yet it fits in perfectly with the quirkiness of everything which comes together to make "Three Kings".

Now one of those things is definitely a visual style, from the almost sparse opening shots, through to the stunning visuals of what happens to the inside of a body when it gets shot. Trust me this is one movie which you are not going to be disappointed by when it comes to the visuals as they are first rate. Throw in exploding cows and a hilarious sex scene between George Clooney and Judy Greer and you begin to wonder how director David O. Russell comes up with so many strange but memorable visuals.

The strange and memorable extends to the performances which are all good especially from the 4 leads George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze. And what makes them good is because these are real characters who evolve, who change from being selfish to caring who also have their own issues to contend with and each makes you laugh in a different way. There is no one stand out performances because alongside these 4 actors the supporting performances from Jamie Kennedy, Nora Dunn and Cliff Curtis are just as impressive.

What this all boils down to is that "Three Kings" is a memorable movie experience which packs in an evolving story, a shifting emotional drama full of surprising dark humour and witty dialogue. It may start like an update of "Kelly's Heroes" but it ends up something different, something which you will never forget.