Studio:Warner Home Video Year: 1999 Cast: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Nora Dunn, Jamie Kennedy, Mykelti Williamson, Cliff Curtis, SaÔd Taghmaoui, Holt McCallany, Judy Greer
Director: David O. Russell Release Date: October 12, 2010 Rating: R for graphic war violence, language and some sexuality Run Time: 01h:54m:46s Genre(s): war
"We leave at dawn. Back before noon. No problem." - Archie Gates (George Clooney)
This film has had a rather loyal fanbase, but somehow it never connected with me the same way, either via its theatrical run or this BD. I enjoyed the performances of Clooney/Wahlberg/Cube, but everything else just seemed too forced or heavy-handed.
Movie Grade: C+
DVD Grade: B-
I feel like I'm missing something in my overall lack of enjoyment of the 1999 war/satire/comedy/drama Three Kings from writer/director David O. Russell. I know folks who just love this film, its message and its giddy portrayal of the post-Viet Nam military. It sure seems like that there should be much to wallow in here, from the likeable cast to the frenetic camera work to the cinematography of Thomas Newton Sigel (The Brothers Grimm, X-Men). All that is true, yet for whatever reason it is the way it is all pieced together from Russell that simply leaves me wholly disinterested.
The film opens with the end of Gulf War I and the discovery of an "Iraqi ass map" (referring to where a prisoner had it stashed) which apparently reveals the location of a fortune in Saddam-stolen Kuwaiti gold hidden in a remote bunker. Soon-to-retire Special Forces officer Archie Gates (George Clooney) proposes a plan to the three other soldiers aware of the map's existence (Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg, Spike Jonze): re-steal the stolen gold and prepare to be rich. Naturally this proves to be easier said than done as locating the gold proves as difficult as remaining uninvolved the shattered lives of the refugees left behind.
It is at this point that the slightly overly preachy wheels are rolled out by Russell as the narrative shifts to more of a redemptive tale. Sure, Russell adeptly pokes satirical fun at the media war aspect of the Gulf conflict, with Nora Dunn onboard as a brash (re: shrill) television reporter there to document the action, warts and all. But it is the character shift in the film's second half that either propels the story into either the realm of moving drama or hopelessly derails it in a series of awkwardly forced scenarios.
Guess which camp I fall into.
I enjoyed bits and pieces of Three Kings—I will not deny that—just not the film in its entirety. The look and texture is gritty and bleached, toploaded with unusual camera angles and assorted stylized nuances. Clooney is magnetic and when a guy like Ice Cube can hold his own against a marquee star like that it's something to take pleasure in. There are certainly creative visual moments, such as Clooney's Gates describing the after effects of sepsis on a gunshot victim or a truck explosion sequence that ends with an unexpected, non-traditional payload. I thought revisiting this via Blu-Ray might have changed my mind about the things I didn't care for the first time around. But it didn't.
The 1080p VC-1 encoded 2.41:1 transfer from Warner is appears rather solid, though differentiating any flaws is somewhat tougher as the entire film is presented in varying degrees of intentionally distorted contrast levels or extremely tweaked saturation levels. Plenty of bleached and processed colors, mostly of the dirty brown and dusty grey variety to go around. Facial details reveal a strong degree of detail (especially when compared to the SD trailer included on this disc). A few small instances of nicks here and there don't help matters much either.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track isn't the be-all-end-all aggressive war movie mix of the year, but dialogue is clear, .LFE booms appropriately and the use of rear channels is respectably evident. Not a showcase presentation, but consistently reliable for the genre.
Other than the transfer, nothing new this time around. All of the extras found here have been ported over from the 2000 SD release, beginning with two commentaries. The first has writer/director David O. Russell and the second features producers Charles Roven and Edward L. McDonnell. Thankfully not much in the way of overlapping content, and despite my overall blah-ness about this title in general Russell proves to be the winner in the commentary contest. Still, Roven (the guy's a hoot!) and McDonnell have a great rapport, and the information flow is heavy.
Also included is a set of fairly engaging and titularly self-explanatory EPK featurettes, including Under The Bunker: On The Set Of Three Kings (4:3 SD 21m:32s), On The Set Of Three Kings: A Guided Tour With Production Designer Catherine Hardwicke (4:3 SD 10m:15s) and The Cinematography Of Three Kings: An Interview With Director Of Photography Newton Thomas Sigel (4:3 SD 07m:06s). Director David O. Russell's Video Journal (4:3 SD 13m:37s) is a handheld "you are there" content from various aspects of the production while the Spike-Jonze-directed An Intimate Look Inside The Acting Process With Ice Cube (4:3 SD 02m:21s) is a little frothy in its brevity. A set of four deleted scenes (with optional Russell commentary) and the film's SD trailer (really?) are also included.