Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: Three Kings

By Mike Everleth ⋅ October 1, 1999

I think I stalked Gilbert Gottfried. After the movie, I was coming out of the theater’s bathroom and passed by a short, frumpy, nervous guy who looked exactly like Gilbert. So much so, I did a doubletake. He noticed.

So, I waited patiently in the lobby a few yards from the men’s room entrance until “Gilbert” came out. When he did, I followed him down the hall. On the escalator up to the second floor, I stood on the step behind him to the left. Though I tried to get another good look at his face to prove it was him, “Gilbert” kept his head turned towards the wall and had pulled a shabby brown wool hat down around his ears. He also had on worn baggy jeans, a thick black jacket and a thin backpack.

I feared I had been too obviously close to him. If my ex- was with me, she would have just asked him if he was Gilbert. But where’s the mystery? The danger? The cool psychotic story? But I had definitely gotten too close, so I let him push far ahead of the crowd to the exit.

At the Loews Cineplex Worldwide Cinema 6 in Manhattan, there are three levels. Theaters are on the bottom, box office on the second, entrance/exit on the first. I had let “Gilbert”, my favorite comedian by the way, get too far ahead. He was going to get too far ahead on the second escalator to the exit. Or maybe I just panicked. I walked up the stairs next to the escalator. But it was difficult. It is my natural inclination to walk fast. The escalator was going extremely slow. I had to keep altering my pace. If I had been too obvious on the first escalator, I was now more painfully so walking next to the second one. No matter, I followed “Gilbert” out onto 50th St. anyway.

He was walking in the direction I had to go, towards the E train. I hoped he would head down to Caroline’s comedy club near Times Square, which would sort of confirm my suspicion. I kept three or four people behind him on the sidewalk. Once in awhile he would glance over his shoulder, but I couldn’t tell if he was looking for me or not.

When we crossed 8th Ave., “Gilbert” ducked into a phone booth. I was stuck. Luckily, I’ve seen enough good spy movies. My subway entrance was around the corner. I was convinced “Gilbert” wasn’t really making a phone call, but was on to me. Either he had seen good spy movies, too, or it was just an instinctual attempt to ditch a psychotic stalker.

I ducked into my subway entrance and casually walked underground to across the street. I also made sure to take my time coming back up in case “Gilbert” actually was making a call and was still on the phone. But when I poked my head up like a groundhog on February 2nd, he wasn’t around. I looked up and down 8th Ave. “Gilbert” was half a block up, walking north, away from Caroline’s. Unlike at the movie theater, I kept my distance. Too much distance. I lost him after about two blocks. I was petrified of being found out. I was starting to tread dangerous water, not to mention starting to feel ridiculously stupid. I do have my limits. I think he turned down 53rd St. I turned around and went back to the subway.

As I write this review, sitting in my neighborhood bar, Enid’s in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, I realize two things:

1) My favorite bartenderess is not working. The one who jumps on top of the bar and lip syncs to ’70s disco tunes on the jukebox. And,

2) I don’t know that much about Iraq or the Gulf War.

I’m trying out a drink I’ve never had before tonight. Manhattans. I’ve had two. I tried it mostly because I like how Bart Simpson made them for the mobsters at his after-school job in that one episode.

THREE KINGS demonizes Saddam Hussein. That toes the official line. I do know that right after George Bush called Hussein a “Hitler” and we stopped bombing his ass, the U.S. was supporting his genocidal attack against the Kurds, a semi-nomadic race without the affluence of Kuwait.

But my Manhattans are beginning to settle in, so I think I will continue this tomorrow when I can do some Internet research…

Actually, it is now two days later and I’m quite sober. I did some online research on Saddam and I’m not sure how much I found out. I mean, how much friggin’ time can I really put into this? I do have a day job and other things to do, ya know. Plus, while you can find out quite a bit of crap on the Internet, it still doesn’t compare to good ol’ book research. So, here are some interesting tidbits I found.

At the Iraq Foundation website, I found an interesting history of Saddam’s life. It’s not very complete, but you get the general picture mostly. He sounds more like a “Stalin” than a “Hitler”, but maybe I’m only saying that because I read it somewhere during my research. Besides, it’s not uncommon in non-democratic countries for dictators who force their way into office to massacre anyone belonging to or expressing sympathy towards the previous regime’s government. Stalin wasn’t the first or last person to do this, so maybe it’s unfair to single him out. I guess he’s just the most common reference point. This timeline about Saddam unfortunately ends at the Gulf War. But what’s intriguing is that in the late ’80s, Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of Kurds and the U.S. didn’t do a damn thing about it.

Some dude at AntiWar.com gets a little too emotional so it’s hard to pick out the facts. His intensity is understandable, but it’s a little frustrating reading this piece. But the title of this article is called “The Arab Holocaust” and it’s enlightening about the UN’s and the U.S.’s treatment of Iraq and it’s people after the war. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Some helpful UN people conducted a Child Mortality Survey and proved that “Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is intentionally starving his own people and hoarding medicines and medical supplies in warehouses”. But there’s also the argument that the child mortality rate is so high because of UN sanctions against the country. Where does the truth lie?

Finally, if you want to read something kind of nauseating, there’s this article on Mother Jones’ web site: Thought the war was over? Well, there was that sticky little business about the weapons inspectors turning out to be spies a year or two ago. But this neat little piece talks about the chunks of concrete the U.S. was dropping on Iraqi civilians a couple months ago. That’s not very nice.

War is an ugly business. Director David O. Russell makes it kinda cool looking, tho’. Lots of great camerawork. Amazing cinematography. Fun characters. The script somewhat acknowledges that the U.S.’s intentions in attacking Iraq weren’t all that noble and that we had selfish motives for “defending” Kuwait, but the film ultimately kind of says “Hey, at least we tried.” I think the real story behind the war and the after-effects of it are certainly more screwed up than a simple action-comedy film can deal with.