By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
There hasn't been so bloodthirsty a service comedy since The Dirty Dozen, although Three Kings's supercharged, bongo-driven cynicism mixes absurd slapstick with intermittent nods to the helpless huddled Third World masses. Russell not only visualizes bombed Iraqi children and bullet-traumatized internal organs but has the guts to point out that the war was fought for oil and that the U.S. had armed Saddam against Iran. Then the movie (which is cluttered with too many dumb peckerwoods and inexpressive performers) starts searching for its own heart. The action stops short so Clooney can explain what's happening: "Bush told the people to rise up against Saddam. They thought they'd have our support. They don't. Now they're getting slaughtered."
Increasingly muddled, cumulatively monotonous, would-be heartwarming, Three Kings becomes its own entertainment allegorysearching, Hollywood style, for the point at which blatant self-interest can turn humanitarian, while still remaining profitable. The movie has a unique trajectory. It keeps trying to go conventional and ultimately does.
A Handheld and Grainy Device in cine-stupefaction, Harmony Korine's julien donkey-boy was shot on digital video according to the strictly "naturalistic," well-hyped precepts of the Danish Dogma group. It also shares Dogma's unwritten but trademark fondness for cretinous overacting. The movie opens with its eponymous protagonist (Ewen Bremner) punching out the camera, dripping snot and drooling through his metal teeth.
Opening fluid-fest aside, fans of Korine's genuinely disgusting Gummo (hyped by Janet Maslin as the worst movie of 1997) may be disappointed. julien donkey-boy is more feeble and less unpleasant than Korine's debutthe big shocks in this cattle-tranquilizer are a masturbating nun, an armless drummer, a cigarette-swallowing geek, a potty-mouthed kid with payess and the miscarriage suffered by Julien's sister (poor Chlöe Sevigny) after her ludicrously telegraphed tumble on a skating rink. The oh-wow look sugarcoats the inane action. The movie's only really tasteless scene uses a black Baptist church service as a backdrop for Julien's antics.
Korine has suggested that his lowlife, Queens-set family drama is in some sense autobiographical. Be that as it may, filmmaker Werner Herzog plays Julien's punitive father, lugubriously lecturing a second son (Korine look-alike Evan Neumann) to be a "man" and a "winner." After a while, Herzog seems to be commenting on the movie itself: "If I were so stupid I would slap my own face." Well put but, even at that, julien donkey-boy is too spastic to connectthe movie just flails the air.
The Limey An Artisan release. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Opens Oct. 8 in NYC.Three Kings A Warner Bros. release. Directed by David O. Russell. Now playing.Julien-Donkey Boy An Independent Pictures/Fine Line release. Directed by Harmony Korine. Opens Oct. 8 in NYC.