Thursday, July 4, 2013

Three the Hard Way (1974)

Seen: On our projector set-up, streamed from Miles's harddrive. Originally rented from Scarecrow Video in Seattle.

As some of you may have heard, Jim Kelly passed away on Saturday. I'm saddened by it but hope news of his death might spur a resurgence of interest in his career, since he is so freaking awesome. Completely coincidentally, I watched one of his films the night before he died, a hard to find blaxploitation team-up film called Three the Hard Way. A record producer (Jim Brown), a businessman (Fred Williamson), and a dojo master (Jim Kelly) are old friends pulled together by a devious white supremacist plot to poison the water supply of three major cities with a toxin that will only affect the black population. Using their fighting skills and a bit of rough detective work, they track down the assholes and get sweet revenge, rescuing Jim Brown's kidnapped girlfriend in the process.

With a ludicrous plot and three awesome blaxploitation stars (plus the director of Superfly, which admittedly I started and never finished), Three the Hard Way was an easy sell. I loved the high-flying action sequences, which include an explosive car pile-up, a lengthy climactic shoot out, and a good amount of martial arts madness. The costumes are TO DIE, with Williamson and Brown fighting for biggest collar and Kelly wearing all-leather suits in various colors. The main villain is a wantonly effeminate rich white dude who stands in stark contrast to the ultra-masculine black protagonists, so the film manages to perpetuate stereotypes while also empowering people of color, which in 1974 was an important thing I think. It's mostly a light action movie, but with such vile displays of racism that I had to take some of it seriously. The execution of the villainous plot may be ludicrous, but the idea of a white organization wanting to selectively poison black people is not an unrealistic thing.

While I dug the cool cast, extreme violence against racists, and music from Richard Tufo and The Impressions, I found the film as a whole pretty uneven. The pacing is all over the place, and the final shootout isn't as impressive as the previous action sequences so it felt anticlimactic. It takes a really long time to get going, and there's definitely not enough Jim Kelly or Fred Williamson. Jim Brown is the real lead, and I found him less charismatic than his costars. I also wish there were more ladies of note, although the red, white, and blue torture brigade was... interesting? Like, they were cool, but the gratuitous nudity was just way too silly, I could only laugh at them.

Let's talk about Jim Kelly for a moment. I have such a crush on this man. Not only is he super attractive and stylish, he just emanates cool. His fight scenes are the most compelling to watch, especially when his character is introduced in the middle of a set-up when he just WASTES a whole crew of asshole cops. It is GLORIOUS. And did I mention that his character's name is "Mister" because his mom wanted people to show him respect? HE'S SUPER COOL AND SUPER ADORABLE! Love love love. Black Samurai is coming in the mail soon, I am very excited.


Pair This Movie With: For more Jim Kelly I will always heartily endorse Black Belt Jones, or for more Fred Williamson there's the kickass The Inglorious Bastards. I could also pair this with the two blaxploitation parodies that directly reference this movie's plot, Undercover Brother and Black Dynamite. Lots of options!

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