Three Kings on DVD – The DVDfever Review

Three Kings

Three Kings actually features four leading men, but given the biblical reference between that and the gold involved in the film, it’s one little oversight I’m going to have to overlook.

Life in the United States Army obviously isn’t enough for the men on show here in March 1991 when the Gulf War has ended. They figure they deserve a kickback for their efforts and head off at dawn one day to find and steal as much of Saddam Hussein’s Kuwaiti gold bullion as possible.

Led by Major Archie Gates (George Clooney playing who else but George Clooney, yet again), family man Sgt. Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Troy-wannabe Conrad Vig (music video and film director Spike Jonze) and god-fearing Chief Elgin (rap singer Ice Cube), the plan is to break in, get the loot and get out and home in time for lunch. That way they won’t be spotted and everything will be hunky-dory.

Of course, nothing will be as simple as that. Certain attempts to progress fail and just when they think things are starting to go their way, huge setbacks are always on the horizon. As they say: when one door shuts, another slams in your face.

When I put this DVD on I expected a typical American gung-ho action romp with endless wisecracks from Mr. Clooney, but what I saw surprised me a lot. The film uses some spectacular special effects at times, particularly when a detailed explanation of death-by-bullet-entering-stomach is given early on, plus many deadly serious moments that kill any potentially-humourous situations stone dead. Of course, I could go into detail about these but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone reading this… safe to say that our heroes get involved in a democrating uprising along the way and helping out the Iraqi refugees led by Amir Abdullah (Cliff Curtis) won’t be easy.

The film also stars Nora Dunn as roving reporter Adriana Cruz, plus there are typical army men roles for Scream‘s Jamie Kennedy as Walter Wogaman and Forrest Gump‘s Mykelti Williamson as Colonel Horn.

As well as the picture being anamorphic and in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, the detail is striking in all the right places. However, you may be forgiven for thinking that the colours look rather washed-out at times, but all is not lost when you read the statement at the beginning of the film :“The makers of Three Kings used visual distorion and unusual colors in some scenes of this film. They intentionally used these unconventional techniques to enhance the emotional intensity of the storyline.”

There’s less explosions to hear than I thought there would be, but the total number of action sounds is plenty and is well juxtaposed with atmosphere and Coen brothers regular Carter Burwell providing the score.

And when it comes to the extras, jam-packed just isn’t the word for it. There’s oodles of extras here that’ll take you days to fully get to grips with.

First we’ll start with the weakest of the lot though – Cast and Crew. I’d expect a biog and filmog of each character listed here, but it’s just a brief cast list of the principal players and that’s it. There are several pages of Production Notes detailing the film’s origins, the historical basis, the use of as many Iraqi people as possible as extras and the way some scenes in the film use different film stocks thus to recreate the harsh, colourless documentary feel, especially early on.

A 22-minute Behind-the-scenes Documentary takes you through the filming process with comments and chat from the main members of the cast and crew. The Tour of the Iraqi Village Set takes 10 minutes and does exactly what it says on the tin. The Director’s Video Journal is a personal 14-minute piece shot by David O Russell as he films various moments in his life during the movie’s gestation period.

There are four Deleted scenes which were probably best left out but are still interesting and can be viewed with commentary from the director or as nature intended, a 7-minute discussion on cinematography with an Interview with Director of Photography Newton Thomas Sigel, a rather inconsequential 2-minute piece entitled An Intimate Look at the Acting Process with Ice Cube directed by Spike Jonze and Special Photography, a selection of on-set photo.

Reaching the end of the extras section, you’ll find the original Theatrical Trailer in anamorphic 16:9 widescreen but it does give too much away so watch it after you’ve seen the film, a feature-length Director’s Commentary track, plus another one too from producers Charles Roven and Edward L McDonnell.

Finally, to be found where you can, are Hidden Bunkers, which provide passwords for use on the official Three Kings Website. I found two of these, but how many are there?

Always one to be liberal with the chapters, Warner give us 31 over the 115-minute film. English is the only language and it gets a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Subtitles are available in the same language plus French. All of the menus are static and silent, but have great screen-wipes between them in the form of clips from the film pinpointed by special effects. There are options to start the film, select a scene, choose the language or visit the extensive extras menu.

Overall, as I said earlier, this film was a far cry from what I was expecting but it still delivered a solid two hours of entertainment, although Clooney could do with investing some of his profits in acting lessons.

Three Kings is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.


Detailed specs:
Cert: R
Running time: 115 minutes
Year: 1999
Distributor: Warner Bros
Region(s): 1, NTSC
Released: 2000
Chapters: 31 17862
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French
Screen ratio: 2.35:1 (Super 35)
16:9-Enhanced: Yes
Macrovision: Yes
Disc Format: DVD9

Director: David O Russell
Producers: Charles Roven, Paul Junger Witt and Edward L McDonnell
Screenplay: David O Russell
Music: Carter Burwell

Archie Gates: George Clooney
Troy Barlow: Mark Wahlberg
Chief Elgin: Ice Cube
Conrad Vig: Spike Jonze
Archie Gates: George Clooney
Troy Barlow: Mark Wahlberg
Chief Elgin: Ice Cube
Conrad Vig: Spike Jonze
Amir Abdulah: Cliff Curtis
Adriana Cruz: Nora Dunn
Walter Wogaman: Jamie Kennedy
Captain Said: Said Taghmaoui
Colonel Horn: Mykelti Williamson
Captain Van Meter: Holt McCallany
Cathy Daitch: Judy Greer