Sunday, December 28, 2014

Three the Hard Way (1974)

One of three features costarring blaxploitation luminaries Jim Brown, Jim Kelly, and Fred Williamson—the others are Take a Hard Ride (1975) and One Down, Two to Go (1982)—this muddled conspiracy thriller represents a missed opportunity on many levels. Not only does director Gordon Parks Jr. fail to exploit the action-hero possibilities created by the participation of his three stars, but the picture includes what should be the ultimate campy blaxploitation premise, only to botch the notion’s potential via confusing storytelling, dull pacing, and flat characterization. Bad guy Monroe Feather (Jay Robinson) creates a serum that, when introduced into the water supply of major cities, will kill every black person who consumes the serum. Yet instead of introducing this outlandish concept right at the beginning, thereby positioning the titular trio as African-American crusaders, the filmmakers take a good half-hour to get to the point. Worse, the characters played by Brown, Kelly, and Williamson don’t join forces until fairly late in the story, so Three the Hard Way feels less like a men-on-a-mission picture and more like a hodgepodge of scenes from three separate movies. The filmmakers also waste lots of time on nonsense, such as the very long sequence of Brown’s character producing a recording session for an R&B vocal group. And whenever Three the Hard Way tries to deliver the blaxploitation goods, the material feels half-hearted. For instance, the scene of martial artist Kelly fighting off something like a dozen armed assailants with his bare hands (and feet) is ridiculous, especially because Parks can’t muster camera angles that properly accentuate the action. (The haphazard shooting style makes the encounter feel like a run-through instead of a fully realized scene.) And then there’s the one truly bizarre sequence in the picture—at one point, the heroes recruit three motorcycle-riding babes to doff their tops and then interrogate a prisoner using some sort of sex torture. Like most everything else in Three the Hard Way, the scene is lurid but nonsensical.

Three the Hard Way: LAME

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