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THREE KINGS

SYNOPSIS:
At the end of the Gulf War, Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) discovers a map hidden on an Iraqi soldier. He and his pal Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) take it to Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) for advice. But when soon-to-retire special forces officer Archie Gates (George Clooney) hears about it, he senses an opportunity. The four decide to stage a raid on a town deep inside Iraq to retrieve what they believe is a fortune in Kuwaiti gold. Gates ditches his main responsibility - looking after TV journalist Adrianna Cruz (Nora Dunn) - and they set out. But when they get to the village, what they find is something very different from what they expected.

"You know those old war movies where Audie Murphy leads the troops over the top to a decisive victory? Well, this ain’t one of those. Director David O. Russell has fashioned a bold, brilliant and at times bizarre tale of greed, cruelty, suffering and ultimate redemption in Three Kings. And all with a sense of humour. In the second half of the film, the mood becomes decidedly more serious; but Russell never fails to hold your attention. There’s a lot going on in this film. Employing a variety of visual techniques, it has a surreal, almost otherworldly feel - which is quite appropriate for the journey the characters take. So far as I’m aware, this is the first major film to deal with issues from the Gulf War. Indeed Russell contemplates the very nature of war and its effects. But he sets the whole thing in an "action movie" construct - without being formulaic. The (mostly male) cast is uniformly good. Mark Wahlberg is the most naturalistic of them, but George Clooney’s cynical Gates and Ice Cube’s man of faith Chief are both first-rate. A revelation on the acting front is Spike Jonze (the guy who made Being John Malkovich) as the redneck Conrad. It was also pleasing to see talented Moroccan/French actor Said Taghmaoui (Hideous Kinky) in an American production. Three Kings is probably a little too "out there" to feature heavily in Oscar nominations, but it’s definitely an audacious, incisive and satisfying film from a talented young director."
David Edwards

"Though the Gulf War occupies a prime position in the chronology of historical events which shaped this past decade, Three Kings is actually Hollywood's first big-budget attempt to put the conflict into some sort of perspective. Pivoting on the same central conceit which informed Clint Eastwood's terrific Kelly's Heroes from 1970, David O. Russell's third outing as writer/director is a gritty, high octane action adventure leavened by a healthy dose of cynicism, black humour and political incorrectness. Taking its cue from the many recent European films examining the Balkan crisis, the film lucidly demonstrates how the true dimensions of war have nothing in common with the epic sweep of a John Wayne leading an heroic charge against an implacable, faceless foe. In reality, military conflict, particularly at the infantry level, is seldom governed by the morals we usually take for granted. It's a world out of kilter with logic, where the real and surreal and the single-mindedness of self preservation hover precariously above a hell subservient only to political expediency. That director Russell has managed to make these polemics palatable to a mainstream audience by grafting them on the genre imperatives of an effects-laden action vehicle is both a credit to him and the studio that allowed him to do it. Subverted by a grainy, washed-out colour scheme that perfectly complements its milieu, Three Kings fully deserves a place on this year's top ten list."
Leo Cameron

"Writer/Director David O Russell’s Three Kings, is an assault on the senses; incorporating highly innovative camera work, together with intelligent use of sound, colour and humour. Slow motion shots of gun fire, stream of consciousness cuts to images of what characters are thinking, bleached out film stock and documentary style, internal images of a wounded body, are among some of the techniques used to propel the action at break-neck speed. A fiercely political piece, the film is essentially a deconstruction of then President George Bush’s official policy during the Gulf War. Russell doesn’t pull any punches with his criticism of Bush, who encouraged Iraqis to rise up against Saddam Hussein, leaving them at the mercy of his army when a cease-fire was reached. Yet the film must be seen as pro-American in its depiction of flawed protagonists who come to learn the error of their greed and are ultimately heroic. This American heroism is illuminated when seen in contrast to the sadistic actions of Saddam’s soldiers. Such a simplistic division between good and evil is due to bad characterisation. The soldiers are one-dimensional, as are their moral dilemmas, and Clooney in particular, never grasps the emotional range required. He fails to change the tone of his performance as his character becomes increasingly affected by what he sees around him. While other cast members fare better, their roles are fraught with ethnic and cultural stereotypes. As is the portrayal of the ‘story hungry’ journalist, who can only be seen as a caricature, when compared to the exceptional depiction of the media in a war film such as Welcome To Sarajevo. While the film is fairly ethnocentric in its portrayal of the heroes, it does a good job of demythologising the U.S. Army in American cinema. Here, the soldiers have little regard for the chain of command, celebrate their victory with reckless abandon and have little idea of the purpose of their tour."
Ronit Frost

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

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TRAILER

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

THREE KINGS (MA15+)
(US)

CAST: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Nora Dunn, Jamie Kennedy

DIRECTOR: David O. Russell

PRODUCER: Burce Berman, Alan Glazer, Gregory Goodman, Paul Junger Witt, Charles Roven

SCRIPT: David O. Russell (Screenplay) John Ridley (Story)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Sigel

EDITOR: Robert K. Lambert

MUSIC: Carter Burwell

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Catherine Hardwicke

RUNNING TIME: 115mins

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 13, 2000

VIDEO RELEASE: June 27, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: June 27, 2000







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