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The Iconic CSI Shot That Was Borrowed From A George Clooney Movie

Between the years of 2000 and 2015, you'd have been hard-pressed to find a show quite as popular as CBS' procedural drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." Heck, even legendary director Quentin Tarantino was a fan of "CSI," helming a bracing two-part episode of the series in its fifth season. More than just a pop culture sensation, "CSI," which followed a crack team of forensic investigators who used their scientific prowess to solve violent crimes in Las Vegas, was also a critical hit, earning Emmy nominations for Outstanding Drama Series in three of its first four seasons on the air. 

Even as the series' narrative quality suffered a bit with age, "CSI" always maintained its status as one of the most stylish shows on television, and was a perennial player in the Emmys' technical categories. And in terms of its style, few showy flourishes in the series were quite as effective as its "bullet wound" shots, which showed in vivid detail the effects of a bullet on a body's internal organs. Those shots became a legit staple of the series over its 15-season run on CBS and were even dubbed the "CSI shot" by series creator Anthony E. Zuiker. That naming happened despite the fact that Zuiker admitted in a 2020 interview (as covered by Yahoo! Entertainment) that he'd actually lifted the shot from a critically-adored anti-war drama starring Mr. George Clooney.  

CSI took it's bullet wound shots from 1999's Three Kings

That movie is David O. Russell's Gulf War drama "Three Kings." If you're unfamiliar with the film, "Three Kings" found Clooney portraying a disillusioned U.S. Military officer who, in the waning days of the Gulf War, enlists three subordinates (Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg, and Spike Jonze) in helping him liberate a cache of gold bars hoarded by Saddam Hussein and his allies. Things naturally do not go according to plan, with Russell and company delivering a thrilling wartime adventure as stylishly rendered as it is bristling in anti-war sentiment. 

In spite of some legendary behind-the-scenes shenanigans, the film was released to rave reviews in 1999 (per Rotten Tomatoes), with many hailing its style as nothing short of ground-breaking. Roger Ebert was among them, with the critic specifically pointing to the film's bullet wound scene in his four-star review stating, "A lot of movies show bodies being hit by bullets. This one sends the camera inside to show a bullet cavity filling up with bile." And yes, that is the very scene Zuiker admitted was the inspiration for the famous "CSI shot," with the series creator telling his interviewer, "I got the 'CSI shot' by watching a movie called 'Three Kings,' where the bullet went into the body."

If imitation is indeed the ultimate form of flattery, David O. Russell should be beyond flattered that Zuiker made his "infected pockets of bile" moment a small screen staple on "CSI." But given Russell's infamously cantankerous temperament, one has to wonder.