Saturday, March 18, 2017
BLAXPLOITATION MONTH: Three the Hard Way (1974)
Three the Hard Way” would fashion an unlikely plot to bring Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, and Jim Kelly together. Essentially the film was “The Black Expendables” three decades before such a thing could exist. It was also the first of several team-up movies Brown and Williamson would do.
Record producer and all-around bad ass Jimmy Lait gets an unpleasant surprise. An old friend drags himself to Jimmy's home. The friend is near death and tells a story about a group of white supremacists living in the countryside, concocting a conspiracy to sterilize the black population of three majors cities. The villains soon discover Lait is on to them, attempting to end his life. Jimmy calls in two of his friends – lady's man Jagger Daniels and karate expert Mister Keyes – and the three work together to destroy this villainous plot. When Jimmy's girlfriend is kidnapped, the mission becomes even more personal.
Character background isn't the only way “Three the Hard Way's” script is lacking. The story is not very clearly conveyed. The heroes are often attacked by bad guys who had no way of locating them. Scenes do not flow smoothly into each other. The film roughly cuts between Brown sabotaging the white supremacist's base to Williamson running from another batch of enemies. The relationship between these moments are not conveyed properly. Considering Gordon Park Jr.'s direction is just as rough here as it was in “Super Fly,” I'm willing to blame the sometimes incoherent editing on him as well.
goons, the villain's secret compound base – more recalls the action films of the next decade than this one. Another wacky element is the trio of color coded dominatrices Brown hires to interrogate a captured racist. (This, not coincidentally, also allows for gratuitous nudity, as the women do all their work topless.)
Then again, maybe complaining that the plot of “Three the Hard Way” barely makes any sense is missing the point. The movie is designed to be an action sequence delivery machine, a goal it succeeds at. Really, it's not long after the movie starts before Jim Brown is leaping over moving cars. An even better scene has Brown climbing atop a speeding truck, yanking the drivers out. Later, Jim and Fred get into a fire fight inside a pinball arcade, an admittedly clever touch. Jim Kelly is introduced by karate chopping a collection of racist cops, an undeniably cathartic scene punctuated with slow motion. It all builds towards the conclusion, where the heroes crash the racist party mixer. Progressively bigger explosions appears, countless cars and buildings consumed by huge fireballs. Honestly, it's pretty impressive considering the low budget the film surely had.
Undercover Brother” and “Black Dynamite,” would both reference elements of its plot. Audiences must have liked it too. The same trio of stars would re-team for spaghetti western “Take a Hard Ride” and eighties actioneer, “One Down, Two to Go.” I wish I enjoyed the movie a little more, as there are certainly some likable elements too. However, more coherence behind the camera would've been appreciated as would a stronger director. That speaks to parks' ineptitude as a filmmaker. You kind of have to work to screw up a deal this sweet, even just mildly. [6/10]
[THE BLAXPLOITATION CHECKLIST: 8 outta 12]
[X] Afros or Sideburns
 Brothels or Pimps
 Churches or Pastors
[X] Funky Soundtrack
 Homophobic Caricatures
[X] Inner-City Setting
 Night Club Act
[X] Plot Involving Drugs or Organized Crime
[X] Racist Authority Figures
[X] Sticking It to the Man
[X] Sweet Love Makin'
[X] Use of Street Slang