Three Kings


1h 55m 1999

Brief Synopsis

Three Marines try to help rebellious Iraqis as the U.S. is withdrawing from Gulf War I.

Film Details

Also Known As
Les Rois du desert, Rois du desert, Les, Spoils of War, Tres Reyes
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Action
Adventure
War
Satire
Period
Release Date
1999
Distribution Company
WARNER BROS. PICTURES DISTRIBUTION (WBPD)
Location
El Centro, California, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA; Arizona, USA; Mexico; Casa Grande, Arizona, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 55m

Synopsis

Its the end of the Gulf War and the United States has just signed a ceasefire when four wise-cracking U.S. soldiers come across a potential jackpot: a rolled up treasure map to Saddam Hussein's stashes of confiscated gold hidden bewteen the buttocks of a captured soldier. Immediatedly a selfish plan is drawn up for the men to infiltrate the bunkers and share the jackpot of luxury cars, televisions, cell phones and gold bars found underneath the war torn desert -- that is until they collide with the Iraqi civilian population and experience a different side of the war.

Crew

Dexter Adriano

Editing

Sermid Al'serrif

Technical Advisor

Sayed Moustafa Al-qazwini

Advisor

Bunny Andrews

Music Editor

Allan Apone

Makeup Supervisor

Johann Sebastian Bach

Music

Kym Barrett

Costume Designer

Bob Beher

Foley Editor

Jim Beinke

Makeup

Benito Benitez

Song

Bruce Berman

Executive Producer

Paul F Bernard

Assistant Director

Gary Blufer

Sound Effects Editor

Bono

Song

Mark Bourgeois

Editing

Dan Bradley

Stunt Coordinator

Dan Bradley

Unit Director

Adam Brandy

Makeup Artist

Jeff Bresin

Special Effects

Martin Bresin

Special Effects Coordinator

Dan Bronson

Costume Supervisor

Michael Broomberg

Foley Artist

Lance Brown

Sound Design

Michael Brown

Special Effects

Carter Burwell

Music Conductor

Carter Burwell

Music

Peter Cetera

Song

Antoinette Colandero

Song

Sandra A Coley-greene

Hair

Raymond Consing

Visual Effects

Mary Courtney

Production Associate

Clifton Dance

Makeup Artist

Colonel King Davis

Technical Advisor

Joe Dorn

Adr Editor

John Downer

Assistant Director

Michael Dressel

Foley Editor

Danny J Edwards

Special Effects

Jann Engel

Art Director

Nicole Espinosa

Script Supervisor

Michael Farrow

Music

Dino Fekaris

Song

Flavor Flav

Song

Bruce Fortune

Sound Editor

Michelle Garbin

Makeup Artist

Tony Gardner

Makeup

Joe Gareri

Visual Effects

John Garrett

Song

Kent Genzlinger

Assistant Director

Alan G. Glazer

Associate Producer

Gregory Goodman

Executive Producer

Gregory Goodman

Production Manager

Lee Greenwood

Song

Werner Hahnlein

Special Effects

Catherine Hardwicke

Production Designer

J P Hawkes

Song

Michael Herbick

Rerecording

Derek R. Hill

Art Director

Amy Hughes

Assistant Director

Rick James

Song

Chris Jones

Special Effects

Janis Joplin

Song

Tina Kerr

Casting

Jonathan Klein

Adr Editor

Sonny Kompanek

Music Conductor

Kate Kondell

Technical Advisor

Nicholas Vincent Korda

Adr Editor

Robert K. Lambert

Editor

Mary Jo Lang

Foley Mixer

Jacques Lanzmann

Song

Janet Lazio Santa

Makeup Artist

Daniel Leahy

Rerecording

John Leveque

Sound Editor

Robert Litt

Rerecording

Lyn Lockwood

Camera Operator

Mike Love

Song

Freddy Luis

Casting Associate

Steve Mann

Sound Effects Editor

Pamela March

Editing

Neville Marriner

Music Conductor

Anne Mccarthy

Casting

Michael Mcclure

Song

Larry Mcconkey

Steadicam Operator

Larry Mcconkey

Camera Operator

Haley Mclane

Script Supervisor

Anthony R Milch

Sound Effects Editor

Alyson Moore

Foley Artist

Bob Morgan

Costume Supervisor

Donald J. Mowat

Makeup

Eddie Murphy

Song Performer

Bobby Neuwirth

Song

Thomas Newman

Song

Peter J Novak

Location Manager

Thomas J. O'connell

Adr Mixer

Staff Major Jim Parker

Technical Advisor

Mike Patlin

Other

Philip C Pfeiffer

Unit Director

Lisa Pi±ero-amses

Sound Mixer

David Poole

Special Effects

Graeme Revell

Song

Karen Rich

Hair

Deedra Ricketts

Casting

John Ridley

From Story

John Ridley

Coproducer

Terry Rodman

Sound Effects Editor

John Roesch

Foley Artist

Kim Roth

Coproducer

Lieutenant John Rottger

Technical Advisor

Michael D. Roundy

Special Effects

Charles Roven

Producer

David O. Russell

Screenplay

Eric Sadler

Song

Ralph Sall

Music Supervisor

Lisa A Satriano

Assistant Director

Greg Schmidt

Camera Operator

Douglas Segal

Coproducer

Gene Serdena

Set Decorator

Keith Shocklee

Song

Newton Thomas Sigel

Director Of Photography

Bob Simocovic

Special Effects

Adam Milo Smalley

Music Editor

Keith Smith

Camera Operator

Ronald G Smith

Production Manager

Kelley Smith-wait

Executive Producer

Gary Snyder

Special Effects

Ron Snyder

Makeup Artist

David Sosalla

Visual Effects Supervisor

Rebecca Stefan

Assistant Director

Robert L Stevenson

Hair

Shawn Sykora

Foley

The Edge

Song

Ron Thompson

Special Effects

Louis Timalot

Pilot

Edward Tise

Sound Mixer

Robert Troy

Dialogue Editor

Joe Valentine

Camera Operator

Mike Van Arkel

Special Effects

Mary Vernieu

Casting

Kimberly Lowe Voight

Dialogue Editor

Tim Walkey

Special Effects

Julian Wall

Assistant Director

Don Warner

Dialogue Editor

Aaron D Weisblatt

Sound Effects Editor

Brian Wilson

Song

Paul Junger Witt

Producer

Richard Wolf

Song

David L Wolfson

Location Manager

Richard E Yawn

Sound Effects Editor

Eric Yellin

Assistant Director

Richard Zarro

Special Effects

Nick Zesses

Song

Film Details

Also Known As
Les Rois du desert, Rois du desert, Les, Spoils of War, Tres Reyes
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Action
Adventure
War
Satire
Period
Release Date
1999
Distribution Company
WARNER BROS. PICTURES DISTRIBUTION (WBPD)
Location
El Centro, California, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA; Arizona, USA; Mexico; Casa Grande, Arizona, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 55m

Articles

Three Kings


Arab images in Hollywood film have come a long way since Rudolph Valentino and The Sheik (1921), even if it took a war to do it. David O. Russell's Three Kings (1999) not only kicks sand in the faces of Arabic-speaking movie stereotypes, it's one of the best American war movies, period. The reason it's more than just the Kelly's Heroes (1970) and M*A*S*H (1970) of the first Gulf War is that it has equal measures of disrespect for war and the war movie alike. When you hear it's about a Humvee of GIs trying to steal some of the gold Saddam has stolen from the Kuwaitis and stashed in a few bunkers, you go in expecting another wise guy service comedy, plus larceny. By the end, you're amazed by the ways it yanks the assumptions out from under the genre - including the assumption that the other side is faceless cannon fodder.

While George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze star as the scamsters in uniform whose hearts prove bigger than their greed - think of them as Ocean's Four -- the real hero here is Russell. His barbed script and direction make you realize how unexamined, how unquestioning, how uncontextualized most war movies are. Usually, war movies are so busy celebrating the valor of the combatants that they never get around to the larger moral and political issues attached to this or that war. Three Kings, combining an unswerving sense of the absurd and a deep pool of moral outrage, tees off on all the lethal folly in its range finder. It loses no time slamming on the table the idea that the war wasn't motivated by noble principle, but by a vision no larger than that of perceived economic expediency, and that it proceeded with the same confusion and lack of overview as in Vietnam.

No less remarkably, it contains sympathetic Iraqis, and allows them to be as human, and sometimes more, than the GIs and their scheme to literally give themselves a golden parachute out of the war, while Iraqis rebelling against Saddam are left hung out to dry by the US in-out policy that leaves the rebels to be slaughtered by the still-in-power Saddam and his Republican Guard. The film lets both sides be heard. New Zealand-born Cliff Curtis is the film's conscience as the rebel leader whose wife is killed and whose bravery and rectitude gnaw at the cynicism of Clooney's cynical Ranger major with a pitch-perfect name: Archie Gates. Almost as three-dimensional is Said Taghmaoui's Republican Guard captain whose outfit captures Wahlberg. While never stepping outside the line that the Republican Guard fighters only kill because they're more afraid of Saddam than of whomever they may be facing in combat, Taghmaoui (a French actor born of Moroccan immigrant parents) tortures Wahlberg with methods the US military taught the Iraqis, bitterly relates how his infant daughter was killed by US bombs and gives his prisoner a lesson in global geopolitics.

The film almost immediately establishes the base line of the steep learning curve the GIs must negotiate when one of them takes to task another for referring to the Iraqis as "dune coons" and "sand niggers," adding, deadpan, that "towel head" and "camel jockey" are perfectly acceptable substitutes. Wahlberg's Iraqi captor's first question is, "What is the problem with Michael Jackson. Why does your sick ******* country make the black man hate himself?" The real war here is against simplistic viewpoints, starting with Clooney's smart but jaded major seeing their heist as a quick run out into the desert to Saddam's treasure-laden bunkers with a return to their tents by lunchtime - and a lot richer. Of course, it doesn't turn out that way. When they get to the parched village with its treasure bunker disguised as a well, stuffed with gold ingots and other loot ranging from computers to Cuisinarts, they realize that a Republican Guard detachment there is indifferent to their presence, waiting for them to leave so they can gun down the rebels. The latter assume the GIs have been sent to help them. It's tense fun watching Clooney struggle to suppress the remains of his tattered sense of right and wrong, try and stick to the plan, drive out with the gold, and leave the abandoned rebels to die.

But the gold is so heavy he needs the rebels to help them transport it in a cache of stolen Louis Vuitton luggage. Next thing they know, they're exchanging gunfire with the Republican Guard, and they're committed, cursing the complications that have arisen in what they thought would be something as simple as knocking over an ATM. Instead, they're huddled in a rebel sanctuary, plotting a counterattack with a fleet of stolen limos. There's also the matter of rescuing Wahlberg's reservist, who wants only to get back to his wife and kids (the rebel leader's second in command wants only to open a hair styling salon, not caring if he styles Shiites or Sunnis). The often surreal absurdity peaks when Wahlberg's resourceful NCO, unable to walkie-talkie his base while confined in another bunker (with a mural of a beaming Saddam in cap and gown!), plucks a cell phone from a pile of looted ones and phones his wife in Detroit, who in turn phones his position in to headquarters.

Meanwhile, Clooney and the others, aided immensely by a warm characterization from Ice Cube, keep the desert improvisations coming, with Clooney's good-guy roguishness keeping the film tilted toward comic unpredictability, and the Iraqi characters being allowed the stature of moral anchors, never mere tokens. As if to guard against prettification, Russell's camera drains color from the desert settings, emphasizing their gritty harshness. It ends on a satisfyingly pragmatic note with an against-the-odds victory for conscience and it escapes the need for ersatz moral epiphanies. If these GIs behave like good guys, prodded by Iraqis in whose plight they are complicit, it's not because that's their first choice. The resourceful, bracingly savvy Three Kings irreverently reinvents the war movie and ambitiously saves its best shots for military mythmaking and the myopic lunges that sometimes pass for US foreign policy.

Producer: Paul Junger Witt, Edward L. McDonnell, Charles Roven
Director: David O. Russell
Screenplay: David O. Russell (screenplay); John Ridley (story)
Cinematography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Art Direction: Jann Engel, Derek R. Hill
Music: Carter Burwell
Film Editing: Robert K. Lambert
Cast: George Clooney (Archie Gates), Mark Wahlberg (Troy Barlow), Ice Cube (Chief Elgin), Spike Jonze (Conrad Vig), Cliff Curtis (Amir Abdulah), Nora Dunn (Adriana Cruz), Jamie Kennedy (Walter Wogaman), Said Taghmaoui (Captain Said), Mykelti Williamson (Colonel Horn), Holt McCallany (Captain Van Meter).
BW-114m.

by Jay Carr
Three Kings

Three Kings

Arab images in Hollywood film have come a long way since Rudolph Valentino and The Sheik (1921), even if it took a war to do it. David O. Russell's Three Kings (1999) not only kicks sand in the faces of Arabic-speaking movie stereotypes, it's one of the best American war movies, period. The reason it's more than just the Kelly's Heroes (1970) and M*A*S*H (1970) of the first Gulf War is that it has equal measures of disrespect for war and the war movie alike. When you hear it's about a Humvee of GIs trying to steal some of the gold Saddam has stolen from the Kuwaitis and stashed in a few bunkers, you go in expecting another wise guy service comedy, plus larceny. By the end, you're amazed by the ways it yanks the assumptions out from under the genre - including the assumption that the other side is faceless cannon fodder. While George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze star as the scamsters in uniform whose hearts prove bigger than their greed - think of them as Ocean's Four -- the real hero here is Russell. His barbed script and direction make you realize how unexamined, how unquestioning, how uncontextualized most war movies are. Usually, war movies are so busy celebrating the valor of the combatants that they never get around to the larger moral and political issues attached to this or that war. Three Kings, combining an unswerving sense of the absurd and a deep pool of moral outrage, tees off on all the lethal folly in its range finder. It loses no time slamming on the table the idea that the war wasn't motivated by noble principle, but by a vision no larger than that of perceived economic expediency, and that it proceeded with the same confusion and lack of overview as in Vietnam. No less remarkably, it contains sympathetic Iraqis, and allows them to be as human, and sometimes more, than the GIs and their scheme to literally give themselves a golden parachute out of the war, while Iraqis rebelling against Saddam are left hung out to dry by the US in-out policy that leaves the rebels to be slaughtered by the still-in-power Saddam and his Republican Guard. The film lets both sides be heard. New Zealand-born Cliff Curtis is the film's conscience as the rebel leader whose wife is killed and whose bravery and rectitude gnaw at the cynicism of Clooney's cynical Ranger major with a pitch-perfect name: Archie Gates. Almost as three-dimensional is Said Taghmaoui's Republican Guard captain whose outfit captures Wahlberg. While never stepping outside the line that the Republican Guard fighters only kill because they're more afraid of Saddam than of whomever they may be facing in combat, Taghmaoui (a French actor born of Moroccan immigrant parents) tortures Wahlberg with methods the US military taught the Iraqis, bitterly relates how his infant daughter was killed by US bombs and gives his prisoner a lesson in global geopolitics. The film almost immediately establishes the base line of the steep learning curve the GIs must negotiate when one of them takes to task another for referring to the Iraqis as "dune coons" and "sand niggers," adding, deadpan, that "towel head" and "camel jockey" are perfectly acceptable substitutes. Wahlberg's Iraqi captor's first question is, "What is the problem with Michael Jackson. Why does your sick ******* country make the black man hate himself?" The real war here is against simplistic viewpoints, starting with Clooney's smart but jaded major seeing their heist as a quick run out into the desert to Saddam's treasure-laden bunkers with a return to their tents by lunchtime - and a lot richer. Of course, it doesn't turn out that way. When they get to the parched village with its treasure bunker disguised as a well, stuffed with gold ingots and other loot ranging from computers to Cuisinarts, they realize that a Republican Guard detachment there is indifferent to their presence, waiting for them to leave so they can gun down the rebels. The latter assume the GIs have been sent to help them. It's tense fun watching Clooney struggle to suppress the remains of his tattered sense of right and wrong, try and stick to the plan, drive out with the gold, and leave the abandoned rebels to die. But the gold is so heavy he needs the rebels to help them transport it in a cache of stolen Louis Vuitton luggage. Next thing they know, they're exchanging gunfire with the Republican Guard, and they're committed, cursing the complications that have arisen in what they thought would be something as simple as knocking over an ATM. Instead, they're huddled in a rebel sanctuary, plotting a counterattack with a fleet of stolen limos. There's also the matter of rescuing Wahlberg's reservist, who wants only to get back to his wife and kids (the rebel leader's second in command wants only to open a hair styling salon, not caring if he styles Shiites or Sunnis). The often surreal absurdity peaks when Wahlberg's resourceful NCO, unable to walkie-talkie his base while confined in another bunker (with a mural of a beaming Saddam in cap and gown!), plucks a cell phone from a pile of looted ones and phones his wife in Detroit, who in turn phones his position in to headquarters. Meanwhile, Clooney and the others, aided immensely by a warm characterization from Ice Cube, keep the desert improvisations coming, with Clooney's good-guy roguishness keeping the film tilted toward comic unpredictability, and the Iraqi characters being allowed the stature of moral anchors, never mere tokens. As if to guard against prettification, Russell's camera drains color from the desert settings, emphasizing their gritty harshness. It ends on a satisfyingly pragmatic note with an against-the-odds victory for conscience and it escapes the need for ersatz moral epiphanies. If these GIs behave like good guys, prodded by Iraqis in whose plight they are complicit, it's not because that's their first choice. The resourceful, bracingly savvy Three Kings irreverently reinvents the war movie and ambitiously saves its best shots for military mythmaking and the myopic lunges that sometimes pass for US foreign policy. Producer: Paul Junger Witt, Edward L. McDonnell, Charles Roven Director: David O. Russell Screenplay: David O. Russell (screenplay); John Ridley (story) Cinematography: Newton Thomas Sigel Art Direction: Jann Engel, Derek R. Hill Music: Carter Burwell Film Editing: Robert K. Lambert Cast: George Clooney (Archie Gates), Mark Wahlberg (Troy Barlow), Ice Cube (Chief Elgin), Spike Jonze (Conrad Vig), Cliff Curtis (Amir Abdulah), Nora Dunn (Adriana Cruz), Jamie Kennedy (Walter Wogaman), Said Taghmaoui (Captain Said), Mykelti Williamson (Colonel Horn), Holt McCallany (Captain Van Meter). BW-114m. by Jay Carr

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of two 1999 awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, from the Boston Society of Film Critics.

Released in United States Fall October 1, 1999

Released in United States on Video April 11, 2000

Released in United States February 2000

Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (out of competition) February 9-20, 2000.

Shown at the European Film Market, February 9-20, 2000

Completed shooting March 15, 1999.

Began shooting November 12, 1998.

John Ridley who wrote the original screenplay was given "from story" credit.

Released in United States Fall October 1, 1999

Released in United States on Video April 11, 2000

Released in United States February 2000 (Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (out of competition) February 9-20, 2000.)

Released in United States February 2000 (Shown at the European Film Market, February 9-20, 2000)

Nominated for the 1999 award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (David O. Russell) from the Writers Guild of America.