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August 24, 2000

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Gold, greed and George Clooney

Aparajita Saha Three Kings

America wasn't in Kuwait to help, but some Americans were. In a nutshell, thatís the philosophy of Three Kings.

The movie opens with a bleak Iraqi landscape. It's 1991 and the Gulf War is over. The US military has kicked Saddam Hussein and his troops out of Kuwait and back into Iraq. With Hussein's surrender, the United States is preparing to withdraw its forces.

Enter the plot. An age-old one about gold and greed. Amidst war-end celebrations and festivities, Special Forces Captain Archie Gates (George Clooney) learns that a trio of soldiers (Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze) are plotting a bit of extracurricular activity. They've come across a map that leads to Hussein's stock of Kuwaiti gold bullion. The boys, under Gates' watchful eye, plan to go home with more than the sand in their shoes.

Pursuing them is news reporter Adriana Cruz (Nora Dunn), looking for her own meal ticket: a big story.

Soon, the feisty foursome burst onto an Iraqi bunker, discovering not only gold but also a bloody dispute between Hussein's soldiers and Iraqi rebels, who are supported by ordinary citizens working for Hussein's downfall. As the soldiers' quest for gold turns into a violent lesson in responsibility and duty, Three Kings smartly moves beyond comedy and action to become a potent human drama. With no dilution in its dark humour or political defiance.

George Clooney George Clooney is subtle and superb. He turns in a fine brooding performance as a man who has had it with army life. His description of how a bullet rips through a human body is not one you're likely to forget in a hurry.

Mark Wahlberg is well cast as the young sergeant who longs to get back to his wife and newborn baby. Video director-turned-actor Spike Jonze is perfect as the annoying, undereducated and unemployed white kid. And Ice Cube puts in a heartfelt performance.

Adding to the film's impact is the washed-out, grainy cinematography of Newton Thomas Sigel that further emphasises the blinding white of the desert sun.

Writer-director David O Russell, who scored independent success with Spanking The Monkey and Flirting With Disaster, moves into mainstream Hollywood, enlivening it with his original outlook. He favours a jittery hand-held camera and throws in unexpected tricks to capture the speed and disorientation of wartime experience.

Three Kings However, Three Kings is often guilty of the very American arrogance it cautions against, and gets caught up in excessive sentimentality towards the end. It mixes style with some testosterone-filled film-making with rectitude, an opinion and a brain. Which makes for a satisfying, though not an impressive, viewing.

CREDITS:
Director: David O Russell
Cast: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Nora Dunn, Jamie Kennedy, Mykelti Williamson, Cliff Curtis, Said Taghmaoui
Producers: Charles Roven, Paul Junger Witt
Cinematographer: Newton Thomas Sigel
Screenwriter: David O Russell
Distributor: Warner Bros International

Related links:
Official web site of Three Kings
George Clooney
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Ice Cube
Mark Wahlberg
Spike Jonze
Nora Dunn

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