David O. Russell's first film "Spanking the Monkey" (1994) was a comedy that examined sexual frustration and the incestuous relationship between a young man and his bed-ridden mother. He followed it up with another comedy, the hilarious "Flirting With Disaster" (1996) which dealt with the complications of a grown man attempting to find the parents who gave him up for adoption when he was a baby. Who better then to direct a big time action movie about the Gulf War?
Apparently nobody. David O. Russell continues his streak of edgy, engrossing films with "Three Kings". At the end of the Gulf War, three soldiers come upon a map that may just help them go home rich. After learning that Saddam Hussein has stolen a great deal of gold from the Kuwaitis, they come up with a plan to steal it back from him. Each one has their own reasons why they want the money. Along the way they bear witness to the reality of the situation and the after effects of the US campaign in the region. After being encouraged by then president George Bush to rise up against Saddam, the Iraqi citizens received no support by US forces and were left to die fighting against their dictator.
"Three Kings" is something of a throwback to old-school war movies the likes of "The Dirty Dozen" or "Kelly's Heroes". It is chock-full of action and humor. However, it is the underlying question of the true reasoning for the Gulf War that provides this film with something that most war films lack - the questioning of what truly is being fought for. Not hindered by the blind patriotism of many war films of the past, "Three Kings" delves beneath the glorious façade of war and the lasting effect on those left behind after the bombing is done. The result is a rare film that manages the tough task of maintaining an equal mix of action, humor, and morality tale. The cast is excellent, including an outstanding performance by music-video-director-extrordinaire-urned-film-director Spike Jonze (director of the upcoming "Being John Malkovich").
All said, "Three Kings" is not only highly entertaining, but one of the best films of the year. Writer/director David O. Russell has established himself as one of the rare breed of filmmakers who possess the ability to create both idiosyncratic independent films and commercially viable larger-budget films. With each film you can only wonder what he will do next.
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