Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In short: Three the Hard Way (1974)

When he becomes wind of the plans of particularly crazy white supremacist to wipe all black people from the face of the earth (or is it just the USA?) via EVIL SCIENCE!, and the bad guys kidnap his girlfriend Wendy (Sheila Frazier) to add insult to injury, record producer Jimmy Lait (Jim Brown), calls in two old friends of his. Together with martial artist Mister – that’s his first name – Keyes (Jim Kelly) and whatever the hell Jagger Daniels (Fred Williamson) is beyond awesome, Jimmy starts kicking Nazi ass. Cars explode at the slightest provocation, people shoot, Jim Kelly martial artists while directed by a guy who really has no clue how to film a martial arts fight. So much for genocide.

Need I say that Gordon Parks Jr.’s Three the Hard Way is not a very good film in the traditional sense, with the way it leaves narrative logic (or really, a plot) and characterization behind and replaces everything with blaxploitation versions of Men’s Adventure clichés? And need I also say that the film still is a whole lot of fun thanks to Parks’s pacy direction that from time to time shows excellent little explosions of 70s style, thanks to its core trio of ass-kicking heroes, as well as thanks to a sense of random abandon that replaces the filler that often mars the underwritten half of blaxploitation cinema?

If I need to or not, I’m still saying it. I’m also saying it’s pretty difficult to mess up a film this sillily eager to please and to follow its imagination wherever it leads. How could anyone resist a movie that sees Fred Williamson calling in a trio of multi-racial dominatrixes arriving on colour-coded motorcycles (and in fitting leather) when they need to torture information out of someone (poor guy dies of fright)? A film that has a scene where a truck explodes from driving through a billboard? And, you know, a film that contains the mystical trio of Brown, Williamson and Kelly - even though I have to admit that Kelly’s painfully sincere acting attempts are only saved by his afro when he’s in the same scene with Williamson’s swagger, and Brown’s laid-back charm and – here absolutely underused – actual acting abilities.

It all adds up to a thing of slightly unhinged awesomeness I enjoyed mightily.

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