If you think movies about the war in Iraq are a hard sell now, consider the unusual case of 1999's "Three Kings." Not only was it set in the morass of the first Gulf War, it featured two rappers and a TV actor in a semi-satirical anti-war dramedy that also doubled as a rousing heist flick. Now that's a real hard sell.
But while the film struggled to break even in its theatrical release, the years since have been much kinder to both the movie's reputation and its stars, with George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube going on to A-list status and "Three Kings" attaining cult classic status.
The premise of the film is simple: While processing hordes of surrendering Iraqi troops after the liberation of Kuwait, a group of American soldiers discovers a hidden map that may or may not lead to a stash of stolen gold. Finding the gold, though, turns out to be the easy part as the men are slowly pulled deeper and deeper into a deadly personal war between competing Iraqi factions.
The story might have been relatively straightforward, but the grueling on-location shoot was anything but, as the film's offscreen turbulence – which included Clooney famously getting in a fist fight with director David O. Russell over the treatment of an extra – ended up overshadowing the onscreen innovations for many moviegoers.
Those fimmaking techniques, though, such as the groundbreaking use of steadicam shots, handheld cameras and an experimental washed out color palette (which was so revolutionary the studio had to include disclaimers with the original DVD release to explain that the effect was intentional), have since become the standard for all Hollywood action movies.
Add in the great star-making performances from three soon-to-be kings of cinema and its easy to see why "Three Kings" has earned the classic status it so richly deserved.
Extras! Just as he did with the film's unconventional cinematography, director David O. Russell puts his stamp on the extras, with both a commentary track and a behind-the-scenes video diary. Other highlights: "An Intimate Look inside the Acting Process" with Ice Cube (which is just what you would think it is), additional scenes, a set tour, interview with director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel, a second commentary track with the producers and the behind-the-scenes featurette "Under the Bunker: On the Set of Three Kings."