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Three Kings (1999)

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0:31 | Trailer

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In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, four soldiers set out to steal gold that was stolen from Kuwait, but they discover people who desperately need their help.

Director:

David O. Russell

Writers:

John Ridley (story), David O. Russell (screenplay)
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Popularity
3,357 ( 1,219)
8 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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
Saïd Taghmaoui ... Captain Said (as Said Taghmaoui)
Mykelti Williamson ... Colonel Horn
Holt McCallany ... Captain Van Meter
Judy Greer ... Cathy Daitch
Christopher Lohr ... Teebaux
Jon Sklaroff ... Paco
Liz Stauber ... Debbie Barlow, Troy's Wife
Marsha Horan Marsha Horan ... Amir's Wife
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Storyline

A small group of adventurous American soldiers in Iraq at the end of the Gulf War are determined to steal a huge cache of gold reputed to be hidden somewhere near their desert base. Finding a map they believe will take them to the gold, they embark on a journey that leads to unexpected discoveries, enabling them to rise to a heroic challenge that drastically changes their lives. Written by imran

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

They're deserters, rebels and thieves. But in the nicest possible way. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for graphic war violence, language and some sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Warner Bros

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Arabic

Release Date:

1 October 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Spoils of War See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$45,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$15,847,636, 3 October 1999, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$60,652,036

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$107,752,036
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

David O. Russell never wanted George Clooney for the lead role, accepting him only after his first choices Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Nicolas Cage, Jack Nicholson, and Dustin Hoffman all turned down the part. As a result, his relationship with Clooney was tense during filming. Clooney noted that "there's an element of David that was in way over his head... he was vulnerable and selfish, and it would manifest itself in a lot of yelling." When Russell's frustration would lead to outbursts, Clooney would take it upon himself to defend crew members and extras, leading to increased tensions. When an extra had an epileptic seizure on set, Clooney ran to his aid, while Russell apparently remained indifferent to the matter. Afterward, Clooney criticized Russell for ignoring the incident, though Russell later stated that he was busy setting up a shot some yards away from the extra and was not aware that the extra had suffered a seizure. Another on-set conflict between the two arose while shooting footage on a Humvee with a camera mounted to it. Clooney recalls Russell yelling at the driver to drive faster. Clooney then approached the director, telling him to "knock it off". Russell remembers the incident differently: "The camera broke, we were losing the day and I was upset about that. So I jumped off the truck and I was like, 'Fuck!' I was just kicking the dirt and everything like that, and then George had this big thing about defending the driver, whom I hadn't really said anything to." During the shoot, Clooney was exhausted, as he was still shooting ER (1994) in Los Angeles three days a week, while working on the film the other four. Regardless, Clooney was determined to stay with the role. Loyal to the script, Clooney helped convince executives to support certain aspects of the film (such as the exploding cow scene) even after he was urged to drop out of production, as his contract called for his compensation with or without his decision to stay in the film. After several arguments, Clooney wrote Russell a letter that criticized Russell's behavior in a last attempt to make peace between the two, a few days before another fight would break out during the filming of the movie's finale. In it, the three lead characters attempt to escort Iraqi rebels across the border to Iran. There were numerous actors and extras in the scene, as well as other elements, such as helicopters flying overhead, and landing in the center of the location. The fight began after an extra was having difficulty throwing Ice Cube's character to the ground. After several takes, Russell came to the extra and put him through the motions of the action. Some individuals present on the set during the incident state that Russell was simply showing the extra how to convincingly act in the scene. However, Clooney and others thought that Russell had violently thrown the extra to the ground. Clooney recalls: "We were trying to get a shot and then he went berserk. He went nuts on an extra." Clooney approached Russell and began criticizing him again, coming to the extra's defense. The two began shouting at one another before entering a physical fight. Second Assistant Director Paul Bernard was so fed up with the experience when the fight broke out, that he put down his camera and walked off the set, effectively quitting. Clooney concludes, "Will I work with David ever again? Absolutely not. Never. Do I think he's tremendously talented and do I think he should be nominated for Oscars? Yeah." Russell offered a different view, saying "We're both passionate guys who are the two biggest authorities on the set," and maintaining that the two continue to be friends. Ice Cube felt the conflict helped the film, saying "It kind of kicked the set into a different gear, where everybody was focused and we finished strong. I wouldn't mind if the director and the star got into an argument on all of my movies." Though the fight was initially kept under wraps, both Russell and Clooney eventually gave official statements saying that the argument had blown over, and neither harbored any ill will towards the other. However, Clooney continued to describe the event in later interviews, as well as the cover story of the October 2003 issue of Vanity Fair, in which he states: "I would not stand for him humiliating and yelling and screaming at crew members, who weren't allowed to defend themselves. I don't believe in it, and it makes me crazy. So my job was then to humiliate the people who were doing the humiliating." Executive Producer and Production Manager Gregory Goodman later stated about Clooney's comments in the media, "It doesn't reflect well on Clooney. It's like some stupid sandbox quarrel." In early 2012, Clooney indicated that he and Russell had mended their relationship, saying "We made a really, really great film, and we had a really rough time together, but it's a case of both of us getting older. I really do appreciate the work he continues to do, and I think he appreciates what I'm trying to do." See more »

Goofs

When the cow blows up, a bell is repeatedly heard, even though there is no bell around the cow's neck. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Troy Barlow: Are we shooting?
Soldier: What?
Troy Barlow: Are we shootin' people or what?
Soldier: Are we shooting?
Troy Barlow: That's what I'm asking you!
Soldier: What's the answer?
Troy Barlow: I don't know the answer! That's what I'm trying to find out!
See more »

Crazy Credits

For Sergeant Major Jim Parker, 1946 - 1998 See more »

Alternate Versions

The Australian theatrical release omits a brief close up of a woman being shot in the head by one of Saddam's soldiers. This was done to avoid an R rating. This scene cut from the Australian release in order to obtain an MA rating for theatrical release were restored for the VHS and DVD releases, thus restoring the original R rating. See more »


Soundtracks

I Get Around
Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love
Performed by The Beach Boys
Courtesy of Capitol Records
Under License from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Funny, shocking, thought provoking and honest.
25 March 2000 | by Gem-22See all my reviews

A film for anyone who ever relishes the triumphal note of western war films, who gets carried away by the moral high of being on the winning side. For those who saw the good in the Gulf War, saw how many people America helped and was proud to live in the Western world.

Three Kings is an anti-war film. Its opening scenes are not the declaration of war, but soldiers celebrating its end. Then coming to grips with its consequences.

Of course, Saddam Hussein is depicted in the customary role of the villain, but then so is George Bush whose abandonment of the Iraqi people he had called to rise against Saddam is illustrated with examples of human suffering - emotional as well as physical.

Don't get the idea that this is a bleak and 'worthy' film, in many ways it is, but it does it with such style and black humour - that forces you to laugh even while being disgusted or perturbed - that it is eminently watchable. But still edgy, I was pleased to see one couple walk out (though they might just have gone to the toilet, who knows, I was absorbed by the film and didn't pay enough attention).

Director, David O Russell, ensures that the film never gets carried away with action scenes - bullets have consequences (good and bad) even when fired by an all-American soldier. There is some stunning cinematography. Particularly shocking to me was when Iraqi soldiers fire at a tanker. Nothing's more shocking than the unexpected and dramatically understated (I didn't see the trailer, though I believe that scene was actually in it).

There are some interesting cinematic devices in the film. The next time that sepsis comes into conversation I'm sure anyone who has seen the film will call to mind scenes of a bullet travelling through the body. I've seen less violent films than some people, but have been swept away by their power many times - become blasé about bullets and cinematic death. I've seen it all too often before to care about nameless victims that stand in the way of the power, wit, and understanding of the hard-bitten, long-serving soldier, wielding a justice in the shape of a gun.

Russell claimed to make every bullet count in the film, and in one memorably calm scene of confusion and crossfire, he certainly does. The style of the film however doesn't detract from its content. Three Kings doesn't have pretensions of addressing difficult issues by showing the manly, serious face of George Clooney looking a little concerned after killing a few dozen of the enemy. It has intelligent dialogue and moving scenes of confrontation between the opposing ideologies of the Americans and their 'allies' and 'enemies' alike.

Not the best date movie in the world. Funny, shocking, thought provoking and honest, 8.5/10.


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