Three the Hard Way (1974) – Review

2 Stars

Arriving at the height of the blaxploitation era Three the Hard Way is one the most ‘polished’ of any film from that genera. Featuring three of the days biggest stars Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and martial arts sensation Jim Kelly. Consider it a Ocean’s Eleven lite. The basic plot is so rudimentary that it was recycled and spoofed in the loving satire Undercover Brother. It seems like white corporate heads are planning the genocide of the African-American race by infusing the water in three major cities with a toxin that only affects minorities. Similiar to sickel-cell but death sets in after only three days time. Do you see alot of references to the number three?

The film was directed by Gordon Parks Jr the son of the man responsible for Shaft the film that brought ‘blaxploitation’ cinema to mainstream audiences. Parks had continually expressed resentment towards the moniker until his death in a tragic plane crash years later. His greatest success here is in having faith in the three charismatic leads. The caucasian bad guys (a constant enemy in the genera) are so comically villainous they are down right cartoonish. Which could also be used to describe the level of violence; to be sure there are many action scenes (most are poorly shot and choreographed) and people being blown away but there is hardly blood and very little excessive gore.

A barebones screenplay is so hilariously serious that the film becomes almost too much when the stars are asked to emote anything other than cool/rage. One of the great joys from a film like Three the Hard Way is in witnessing the absurd. Take of instance a scene in which the good guys can’t get a captured bad guy to talk. What do they do? Well, call in three racial divided female dominatrixes and let them go to work. It’s so out of left field I’m surprised Tarantino hasn’t stolen it yet. Though the plot is paper-thin and the action uninspired, the three male leads are likable. This low-brow action picture had a major theatrical release in it’s day.

Director: Gordon Parks Jr
Stars: Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly

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