Friday, June 21, 2019

CONSENSUS #68. Three Kings (1999)

SYNOPSIS:  In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, a quartet of bored American soldiers (George Clooney, Mark Wahlburg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze) find a map to a horde of Iraqi gold and decided to pull a heist behind enemy lines.  In the process, they encounter Iraqi soldiers still loyal to Saddam Hussein and dissidents intent on his overthrow.  The trek is fraught with escapades and ends with the newly altruistic Americans helping some refugees find haven.

BACK-STORY:  Three Kings” is a black comedy directed by David O. Russell.  It is his only war film.  He made it for $48 million and it made over $100 million.  He filmed in the deserts of Arizona, California, and Mexico.  The movie used numerous Iraqi refugees as extras.

TRIVIA:  Wikipedia, imdb, mental floss
 The movie originated with John Ridley challenging himself to write and sell a script in a short time.  He wrote “Spoils of War” in a week and sold it in eighteen days.  Director David O. Russell was intrigue by the description “heist set in the Gulf War” and claimed he never actually read the script.  Apparently he used just the concept and wrote the movie’s script from scratch.  He did not consult with Ridley which created some bad blood.  Ridley had to settle for a “story by” credit. 
Russell wrote the Ving character with Spike Jonze in mind, even though Jonze had never acted in a movie.
 The first thought for Gates was Clint Eastwood, but he was too old.  Nicholas Cage was going to do it, but ended up doing “Bringing Out the Dead” instead.  Clooney campaigned for the role so he could break out of “ER”.  Russell was skeptical, but got worn down.
 There was a lot of conflict between Russell and Clooney on the set.  Russell tended to be hard on the crew and extras and Clooney took on the role of defender of the little guys.  It got so bad that they got into a fist-fight towards the end.
 The show-stopping shot of a bullet going through a body originated from a conversation Russell had with a doctor.  Russell asked him what the worst wound he ever saw was.
Russell went a little loopy during an interview and told Newsweek that the shot used a real corpse.  The studio got a complaint from a mortician’s organization.
Clooney loves to play pranks and one was catapulting an apple using a car antenna which hit Nora Dunn in the face.
Pres. Clinton requested and got a private screening at the White House.

Belle and Blade  =  N/A
Brassey’s              =  N/A
Video Hound       =  N/A
War Movies         =  N/A
Military History  =  not on list
Channel 4             =  #50
Film Site                =  no
101 War Movies  =  yes
Rotten Tomatoes  =   #37 (100 rating)

OPINION:  The movie is very entertaining. It came out after “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Thin Red Line” and joined them in juicing up the war movie genre for modern audiences.   It is different and more unorthodox than those other films. It is the MTV version of war. It’s a war movie for the new generation, "Three Kings" is the modern equivalent of "Kelly's Heroes".  The movie is not just eye candy. The acting is stellar from the ensemble. Even the novice Jonze holds his own. Clooney’s charismatic performance conclusively proves that his decision to jump from TV was a wise one. Wahlberg cemented his status as a major star. More importantly, the screenplay is thought-provoking. It does not preach, but makes it clear that the period at the end of the Persian Gulf War was a messed up situation and the U.S. should not be proud of our role in the Iraqi Insurrection. In some ways it is a biting satire of the military and the media. Although the bigger picture is conveyed, the movie dwells at the human interest level. It depicts how government decisions affect civilians.

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