Three Kings

Stars:  George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze

This film wants to be funny, sad, hilarious, solemn, angry, political, social and it is all those things plus one other – stupid. Which is not to say that its stupidity outweighs all the other things, just that it exists side by side with them. And I, for one, didn’t appreciate that last element, nor did I find any of the other ones to be so compelling that I would recommend this film without reservation. I don’t.

The film begins at the close of the Iraqi War – Desert Storm – with four soldiers out to locate gold that Saddam Hussein pilfered from Kuwait. This highly illegal and dangerous operation is planned, if you can call it that, in the wink of an eye and because there is a ceasefire, the soldiers figure they can drive hundreds of miles through the desert, locate a well-guarded bunker filled with treasure, not get anybody killed, grab the stuff and get back to camp before anyone knows they were gone. Sounds reasonable.

The heist is planned by cocky Major Archie Gates (George Clooney) with the help of Sgt. Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) and grunt and basic low class moron, Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze). Kind of like watching the Three Stooges plus one.

Moral dilemma number one: they locate the bunker, and at the same time, have to cope with a bunch of downtrodden locals and the fact that America is not really there to protect opposition rebels or their families. The political stench comes right through the screen. What to do? The greedy soldiers opt to help the populace thus putting themselves in danger and upsetting their imagined well-thought out plan. You want to believe in their actions for the good of the people, except these soldiers aren’t too bright and they get deeper in trouble and the circumstances become more dire. All the while, writer-director David O. Russell leads us through the desert with grainy, overexposed footage, stop-action camera work and some occasionally funny, occasionally lame jokes.

Sympathy to the Iraqi condition is aroused when an Iraqi solider tortures an American while explaining how American bombs killed his son and maimed his wife. Somehow, even as he shoved crude oil down the guy’s throat, I wasn’t all that convinced. And when soldiers got shot for no reason other than their own stupidity, I was left cold there too.

There is action; there is humor and the film, overall, is enjoyable. But it is not some great piece of political, social work that has some tongues wagging in Hollywood. It’s an okay film.

Lotta says “Three Kings” would have gotten its messages across more powerfully if it had played more as a straight action/drama rather than this comedy hybrid.