THREE KINGS is neither a war movie nor a crime caper story nor an offbeat comedy. It is all three. It tells a tale of three American servicemen thieves who want to some of the loot after the Gulf War in Kuwait. Unconventional, mostly entertaining, but not altogether cohesive or convincing, this ultraviolent movie sheds some light on the conditions and victims during the war, in a mixed bag of morals.
George Clooney is Special Forces Captain Archie Gates, a Green Beret who is weeks away from retirement. Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) is young, capable and sincere and is proud to have served in the Gulf War for America. Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) is a former baggage handler from Detroit Airport, and a practicing Christian with some unconventional methods for demonstrating his faith. Finally, Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) is a redneck who never finished school. Bored that they never saw much action during the war, they are anxious to get back home to their uncertain futures. Their lives are complicated by the constant, intrusive presence of television war correspondent Adrian Cruz (Nora Dunn in a spoof of CNN’s Christiane Amanpour).
One day, Troy finds a secret map planted on an Iraqi POW. The map tells of a place where the Iraqis are keeping stolen Kuwaiti gold. The four men leave early one morning to retrieve the gold to try and secure a better future. They think it will only be a brief operation. They go AWOL and soon encounter many setbacks and troubles. One of the biggest obstacles is that the treasure hunters are sent down a wrong trail. They eventually outmatch the Iraqis guarding the gold, but the guards kill a few Kuwaitis in the process. As the Americans make off with the loot, their humvee is blown up by a land mine, tear gas is sprayed, and Troy is kidnapped by one of the Iraqi guards.
Captain Gates makes an agreement with some Kuwaiti refugees that he will help them get to safety if they help transport the gold in individual suitcases. All the while, Adriana Cruz is close to finding the rebel team as well as their commanding officer, who is steaming mad that the four took off. After a few more gunfights and some close calls and a few deaths, a climax is reached at the meeting of the thieves, Iraqi troops, Kuwaiti refugees, and Gate’s superior commander.
Because of the saturation TV coverage of CNN, few important details are unknown about the Gulf War. However, little is known about the personal lives of the soldiers, the reporters who covered it, and the Iraqi and Kuwaiti people themselves. If nothing else, THREE KINGS puts a human face on each of these people groups. The movie reveals their hopes and dreams and that, despite differences in race and religion, all people share some common values. Indeed, much research was performed to create accuracy in depicting little known or misunderstood Middle Eastern customs. Nevertheless, more research should have been made with reporters and Christians. Adriana Cruz is almost a cartoon stereotype, and Cube’s Elgin doesn’t maintain moral strength despite his Christian faith. He remains a thief. Furthermore, he has some strange practices such as “the Jesus Code,” which he says is his obligation at all times to take care of that which is around him. This may be a noble sentiment, but it’s a little contrived and unnecessary.
The strange mix of humor, humanity, foreign locations, crime complications, and American gung-ho machismo doesn’t always gel, despite the movie’s earnestness. The director mixes in a few slow-motion images and other cinematic devices such as a bullet passing through a body, but these devices don’t drive the story forward well. The movie also has a brief but gratuitous sex scene between Gates and a young female reporter, and many grisly scenes of violence, including blood and flying body parts.
Finally, there are several religious references. For example, Muslim prayers are depicted, Elgin makes a sign of the cross and a dying young American says that he is “going to hell.” His frankness might be true, and it’s good that hell is recognized, but no alternative is given to him before he dies.
No one hero here. In fact, the thieves are actually anti-heroes. Although they don’t get away with their crime exactly, they don’t receive justice either. Ultimately, THREE KINGS is a misnomer, an odd film with some difficult content that still gives some insight on a minor conflict which occurred nearly 10-years-ago.
A disturbing report from Fox News, however, recently reported that the filmmakers actually used the corpse of a man in some of its action scenes. The movie shows people shooting the man’s dead body, according to a Fox spokesman. If true, this is a horrible example of the disdain for human life that Hollywood displays in its “entertainment” programs and “art” works. It is something one would expect to see in Hitler’s Nation Socialist Germany or Stalin’s Communist Russia, not in the United States of America. We must pray diligently that God deliver us as soon as possible from the potential murderers among us.
Largely pagan worldview of American soldier thieves in Kuwait with some moral elements of protecting people & forgiving one's enemy, a Christian character who has sincere beliefs but is still a thief, brief depictions of Muslim prayers, & some political correctness; 63 obscenities & 8 obscenities; extensive violence including shooting with bloodletting, images of corpses, cow blows up, torture by electric shock briefly depicted, man force fed motor oil, image of bullet passing through body, fist fighting, & explosions; briefly depicted fornication; woman in underwear; alcohol use; smoking; and, stealing, lying & rebelling against authorities.