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USA 1999
Directed by
David O. Russell
114 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Three Kings

Director and writer David O. Russell (the original story was by John Ridley who wrote Oliver Stone's U Turn, 1997) keeps a tight rein on his project and for the most part the pace is relentlessly intense, resulting in an above-average action film. Although evidently working with a sizeable budget and within the conventions of Hollywood cinema (essentially the redemptive theme), Russell who has from his indie beginnings methodically stepped into the mainstream via his two previous films, Spanking The Monkey (1994) and Flirting With Disaster (1996) nevertheless keeps his film fresh and distinctive.

Recalling the classic Rudyard Kipling short story, The Man Who Would Be King, that was filmed by John Huston in 1975, the would-be would be three kings are George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube, three soldiers who in the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, set out to steal a cache of gold that was stolen from Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. Their get-very-rich-quick scheme begins to tarnish however  when fully realizing the suffering that the Iraqi people have endured as a result of American intervention in the Middle East they have to choose between the loot and basic human decency.

Although at times feeling a little glib, both in plotting and execution, with its blackly comic sensibility, willingness to play around with formal values in the service of storytelling, and at the same time make some serious, critical comments on the real events to which it refers Three Kings is a solid-enough example of how to make a satisfying film within the constraints of mainstream entertainment.

FYI: Tom Cruise was originally offered the George Clooney role but declined. The "fourth king", Conrad, is played by Spike Jonze, director of Being John Malkovich which came out the same year.




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