Three Kings

The Skinny

A thought-provoking, action-packed “Anti-Gulf War” war movie

The Full Review

With U2’s “In God’s Country” playing in the background as the closing credits flashed on the screen, I sat in my seat struggling to recall the last time I had had that much fun at the movies. Three Kings, wonderfully written and directed by David O. Russell (Spanking the Monkey and Flirting With Disaster), is a quirky action “dramedy” set at the time of the Gulf War cease-fire. The story follows five American soldiers who have gone AWOL in an attempt to steal millions of dollars worth of Kuwaiti gold being held by Saddam Hussein’s royal army.

Unfortunately, some people are likely to mistake this Warner Brothers film for standard big-budget action schlock. Such a characterization, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. Russell’s film, which does borrow from its great war film predecessors such as Apocalypse Now and Saving Private Ryan, is arguably the most creative and one of the more thought provoking films of the year.

The film’s eclectic cast, featuring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze (director of Being John Malkovich and numerous music videos) and Nora Dunn, works well together. Clooney’s acting style has led him to consistently play his T.V. and film characters with a sense of calm that borders on stoicism. Audiences seem to either love or hate this. There is no denying, however, that Clooney finally demonstrated some big-screen promise in Out of Sight, and in Three Kings he certainly follows through on that promise in his role as Captain Archie Gates. Although Ice Cube ably plays his part as the god-fearing Chief Elgin, I was somewhat disappointed with his performance. I am still waiting for him to once again use the acting talent he displayed in his riveting portrayal of Doughboy in Boyz n the Hood. Spike Jonze, who has directed several MTV videos and will make his feature directing debut with the upcoming release of Being John Malkovich, nails his role as the ignorant but highly likable Private Conrad Vig. Nora Dunn, of Saturday Night Live fame, plays an annoyingly aggressive TV reporter apparently modeled after CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. It is Mark Wahlberg, however, who, not surprisingly, gives the stand-out performance of this film (I continue to be amazed by people who still insist on referring to him as Marky Mark). He convincingly plays Sergeant Troy Barlow, a young man desperate to return home safely to his wife and newborn baby.

By: Craig Ettinger


  • Don’t miss a moment! The film is visually dazzling (great cinematography and camera-work)
  • Hilarious opening 20 minutes demonstrating that CNN’ s relentless coverage of the Gulf War failed to truly capture what was going on over there
  • Terrific score and soundtrack


  • None (it has its “Hollywoodish” moments, but overall the movie works flawlessly)