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(By Gerry Wang)

(George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze; directed by David O. Russell)
by Gerry Wang

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    Remember back in elemtary school when the Persian Gulf War was raging? We were just naive kids who were fascinated w/ Patriot missiles blasting down Scuds. All the knew was Saddam was an evil motherfucker that we're obligated to antagonize. He was, simply put, the bad guy. Boy were we ignorant. We didn't even know why the war was taking place. Saddam invades Kuwait. Our teachers say that's bad, so we think it's bad. Yeah, tie those yellow ribbons and band together a ton of celebrities to sing a song in support. That's all we did.

    We watched CNN's manipulative propoganda and assumed it was truth. George Bush and Norman Schwarzkopf entered American culture forever. He was our badass 5-star general. George Bush was a foreign policy stud. How did we know all this? Ted Turner and CNN told us so. Strangely enough, I didn't remember any casualties during the war. We kept our boys out of it. The only time we lost a man was when we shot him down ourself.

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    After watching THREE KINGS, a dynamic, mercurial storm of a film by David O. Russell, I'm convinced that the Persian Gulf War was merely the same kind of war the United States always fights. There has to be economic benefits behind our motivation first, then our blah blah ideology of perserving peace and democracy, yada yada. We needed Kuwait's oil. We have our own reserves, but we don't want to exhaust it in case of emergency. Therefore we import. Genius.

    THREE KINGS is the story of 4 men who plan to steal the gold buillion that Saddam took from the Kuwaitis. But it is also a moral tale of men who, when tested, always choose the side of justice and goodness to all people, despite resistance both internally and externally. There are times when THREE KINGS exhibited masterful epic war-filmmaking, ala SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, but there were also times it seemed like M*A*S*H.

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    I was anticipating a sprawling epic film about our last major war/scuffle. I wanted it to tackle all the moral dilemma surrounding the war, such as our true motivation, our backstabbing of Shiite muslim rebels whom we promised to aid in return for their uprising, of how the US government carefully controlled what the American public saw. Most of all, I wanted to see badass action and violence. THREE KINGS only had sparse action and lots of gory violence, but it wasn't combat-like. It was action-movie like. Not what I wanted.

    But I have to admit, parts of THREE KINGS were very funny, such as the rapport between its stars. Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and George Clooney give great performances as greedy soldiers whose humanitarian sides are brought out of them during a time of crisis. But it was Spike Jonze as Conrad Vig, a redneck yokel that steals the show. His simpleton accent and earnest loyalty make him the most endearing character in the movie. He's what Jar Jar Binks shoulda been.

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    Look for some funny bits involving cows and mines and milk and maps. THREE KINGS is good for visuals from director Russell, whose cinematography and action reminded me at times of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, although this movie in no way stands up to Steven Spielberg's great war epic. The great Gulf War movie has yet to be made, but if you want a quirky black comedy w/ war as a background tapestry, then THREE KINGS is for you. I recommend getting it on MPG.

** 1/2 out of 4
Babe-o-meter: 1