Having lanced the boil of 'family values' in Spanking the Monkey and Flirting with Disater, former indie director Russell turns his attention to a bigger ill, 'international relations' (the setting is the aftermath of the Gulf War), without sacrificing any of his subversive sensibility. He throws himself gleefully under the blanket of official war coverage, introducing his ragbag of US infantrymen (Clooney, Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Jonze) casually shooting 'towelheads' (hostilities have just ended), fucking and fucking over reporters (the only American women about, interestingly), and describing bullet wound sepsis in visceral surgical detail. Strip-searching an Iraqi PoW, they find a map of secret loot, and take off in pursuit. It's an unashamedly hoary plot device, notwithstanding that it aptly summarises the mercenary motivations at the oil-black heart of Desert Storm. Russell constantly threatens to shoot himself in the foot with his charged but ramshackle deployment of dramatic clichés, grand standing action and basic political exposition (the tone's a little shaky, too, veering across merry black humour, denunciatory polemic and high octane thrills). That said, some searingly strong visions of the human impact of realpolitik are radical for a Hollywood film. Taghmaoui offers the most vivid performance as a bitter, angry torturer. The last reel descends into a muddle of trade-offs, heroic about-turns and romanticised rebels, but this is defiant, provocative cinema; Russell may yet prove a film-maker to treasure.