Most helpful critical review
Actually, it's more like Two Pair
on December 12, 2002
I wanted to love this movie, but wound up liking it.
The problem: The writer/director has written a brainy script, cleverly layering lots of challenging and occasionally comic ideas, but unhappily, there's too little feeling. In the end, there's something empty about Three Kings; it's interesting but not captivating. It feels like a really good op ed piece, but it doesn't linger in memory as all great films do.
The break between thought and feeling comes out plainly in the DVD extras. When the director talks about his views/research on the Gulf War, his narrative comes to life. In fact, watching this film with Russell's narrative is BETTER than watching the film itself, because the best moments in Three Kings are all idea-driven.
On the other hand, when Russell talks about conveying feeling in the film, he admits that he decided to skimp on character development and shoot for satire/farce, and he dwells on his choices of film stock, hoping cinematic effects will convey feeling not found in the writing. Sadly, Russell overbets on both hands and loses.
If you like polemical/political films with some style to them, try The Year of Living Dangerously as a comparison film. That one is as well thought out as Three Kings, and while it wears its heart on its sleeve, there are moments in that film that crackle with life and are moving as well as thought provoking.