There is a very bad movie hiding inside Three Kings, a rousing and patronizing slab of Hollywood starring a trio such as Kurt Russell, Wesley Snipes, and Greg Kinnear. Russell, to his credit, hasn't made this movie. Instead, he has cast cool antiheroes in the film's leads. It is only a matter of time until audiences recognize Clooney, the gentle patriarch, as a box-office star; if Wahlberg could shed some muscle, he could thrive in the part of the beleaguered stiff; and Jonze, mostly known as a clever video director, will no doubt be called back in front of the camera. Even the weakest stretches of the picture feature such spectacles as an interrogation sequence that starts with questions about Michael Jackson, and views of a gunshot casualty from inside the wound channel.
Ultimately, it remains to be decided whether Three Kings has delivered a spoonful of sugar to make some hard medicine go down, or whether it has sugarcoated what might otherwise have been a brilliantly acid film. In either case, no one could accuse Russell of being the first American to lose his nerve in the sand.
Hail the conquering heroes: Archie Gates (George Clooney), Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), and Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) smile in the face of disaster