I can still remember the first time I viewed David O. Russell’s blitzkrieg masterwork Three Kings, which for me, is my favorite of all of his terrific cinematic works (I Heart Huckabees is a VERY close #2). I was in college, working on my 16mm, black & white student film, and the entire crew went out to see it after a long day of working on our own little action romp. And I can still remember how the film ripped the tops of our heads off, and how it sent us out into the lobby with a serious cinematic buzz that would take weeks to get rid of. This was a theatrical three timer, and over the years, I’ve probably seen it 20 times, either in full or in bits and pieces. On an aesthetic level, Three Kings was a game changer and a mind-blower, with Newton Thomas Sigel’s eye-scorching images producing one phenomenally visceral moment after another, while the hilarious black comedy and pointed satirical elements of the script landed direct blows in every instance.
The chemistry between George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze was intense and palpable, their characters fully fleshed out as human beings and as a result capable of mistakes and lapses in judgement, each with their own strict sense of morality, with Russell’s usual brand of idiosyncratic humor sprinkled along the edges. The action scenes are violent and explosive, and still register strongly to this day, even in the face of countless blow ‘em ups that have come and gone throughout the overly CGI’d years. The amazing supporting cast included a very young and adorable Judy Greer, Cliff Curtis, Nora Dunn, Jamie Kennedy, Saïd Taghmaoui, Mykelti Williamson, and Holt McCallany. Noted for its turbulent shoot and controversy over scripting credits, this is one of those films that feels alive and essential, and is overdue for special edition treatment from a group like The Criterion Collection. The film’s trailer is also an all-timer, as well as Russell’s making-of video diary. I’ll never get tired of revisiting this film, because on so many levels and then as an entirely unique whole, I think it’s one of the best contemporary war films ever made.