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Three Kings

"Three Kings" on DVD

War is Heck

David O. Russell's "Three Kings," set just after the Persian Gulf War ended in 1991, blends comedy with action, emotion with absurdity, and throws in some pretty interesting filmmaking to sweeten the mix.

George Clooney, Mark Walhberg, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze are American soldiers who head off on a highly unauthorized mission to liberate - well, steal - a cache of Kuwaiti gold that had been taken by the Iraqis during their occupation of the tiny Gulf state.

They plan to retire from the forces in style, with millions of dollars worth of bullion as their booty.

Naturally, things don't go according to plan. They find the gold, but in the process they get swept up in the human tragedy of post war Iraq when the US-led UN coalition encouraged the Iraqi people to rise up, but didn't give them the support that would allow them to do it.

The film dwells on this point at some length, making then-president George Bush out to be some kind of betrayor, conveniently ignoring the fact that the UN coalition was mandated only to free Kuwait and not to go after Saddam Hussein.

It's a point written into the screenplay in hindsight, unfortunately, and hindsight isn't always fair to history.

Anyway, the human drama is quite moving as decent Iraqi citizens come into conflict with Saddam Hussein's forces and the Americans get drawn into their lives.

Decency wins out in the end and, except for the people who die, all appear to live reasonably happy ever after.

Three Kings has many light moments and a few fairly dark ones, but on the whole it works quite well. You learn to care for these crusty Americans who, at the beginning, are only interested in their heist. You also learn to care for many of the Arab peoples they meet, people who only want to live their lives in peace. These are not your typically stereotyped movie Arabs.

The DVD is presented in widescreen (enhanced for 16x9 TV's), Dolby Digital 5.1, and the audio and video quality are very good. The picture quality appears to be all over the map but, as noted by an onscreen disclaimer at the beginning of the film, the director's intent was to shoot with various looks, so you can't blame the DVD medium for any washed out or otherwise weird looks you might find.

There's some nice use of surround among all the explosions and gunfire, which is always a nifty experience in the home theater.

Three Kings has plenty of extras, including an "easter egg" accessible from the main menu that gives you a secret code you can use on the DVD ROM components.

There are also feature commentaries, behind the scenes documentaries, interviews with some of the creative personnel, and a "director's video journal." It's quite interesting stuff, too. You also get "An intimate look inside the acting process," with Ice Cube, a gallery of still pictures, trailers, and the abovementioned DVD ROM component.

I expected "Three Kings" to be more of a wartime comedy in the tradition of "Kelly's Heroes," but it's far more than that and, while in the grand scheme of movies it's probably a fairly lightweight entry, it's still a satisfying couple of hours in the home theater.

Three Kings, from Warner Home Video
115 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze
Produced by Charles Roven, Paul Junger Witt, Edward L. McDonnell, Screenplay by David O. Russell
Directed by David O. Russell


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Updated May 13, 2006