Saturday, July 4, 2015

Three the Hard Way

Can I get a "Hell, yeah!" or, at the very least, a "What! What!"
Three the Hard Way is a blaxploitation flick directed by Gordon Parks, Jr. of Super Fly fame and starring legendary football player Jim Brown, football player of some repute and grindhouse hero Fred Williamson and martial arts star Jim Kelly, whom you probably know from Enter the Dragon. They're fighting  Nazis.

It seems a group of business-suited white supremacists have somehow created a poison (unlike today's business-suited white supremacists, they actually believe in science) that will kill only the black residents of Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington, D.C. Jim Brown's buddy finds out about this, whitey kills buddy and kidnaps Jim's girl. So it's time to go out and get some payback. And save a few million people, of course. Give back to the community...

It was seeing shit like this that made the NRA and Ronald Regan
support gun control back in the 60s.

Along with plenty of righteous 70s threads, Brown shows off the tremendous physical grace--vaulting over barricades, leaping down stairwells, hanging on to the hoods of cars--that helped him lead the NFL in rushing for eight seasons (Although note that the suit is worn with a nice pair of kicks--which i am guessing are Pumas or Keds--because no one could do this in a pair of alligator Ferragamos.) Three the Hard Way does not stint on prolonged action scenes and isn't that why we're all here anyway?
 Although the fact that two of those action sequences involve wrecking a herd of sweet Detroit-made sedans and pumping hundreds of bullets into a collection of vintage pinball games does make a me a little sad. The latter takes places once Jim  Brown travels to New York City to get the first member of his posse: Fred Williamson. Fred Williamson is, as always, one smooth badass who always seems to be having a good time in his flicks, even crap like 1990: The Bronx Warriors and he seems to be enjoying Three the Hard Way even more than usual.
Then we come across Jim Kelly, or at least his bitchin' Lincoln  Continental having drugs planted in it by a herd of crooked cops. But with a mighty yell of  "Gonna set me up?!" he kicks the crap out of them.

It's a bit like a drawn-out version of a similar skirmish in Enter the Dragon; the next sequence will also reference the climactic car wash battle in Black Belt Jones. Our heroes manage to capture one of the Nazis and figure he ought to be good for some information...
We then get a glorious montage of a red-white-blue clad trio of biker babes coming into Manhattan from Brooklyn. The ladies are Countess, Princess and Empress (the last of whom is played by Irene Tsu of Ebony, Ivory and Jade, so she's rolled like this before). And, well, the ladies handle interrogations in a way that gives pause to even this rather rugged set of gentlemen. (If you want true brutality, call upon the women.)
More fistfights, more car chases, more running around shooting. It occurs to me that we never learn how these guys know each other or how they all became such profound ass-kickers. Usually they at least throw in a line about being Green Berets in 'Nam or, in this case, ex-football players. (Even Kelly, though he didn't go pro--he was also apparently a hell of a tennis player, though i somehow sense he must've had some hoop game as well.) We see Jim Brown as a producer (of the Impressions), but no idea what the other two guys do.
This band of nutjob cartoon white supremacists lacks the over-the-top misanthropic lunacy of a Donald Trump or Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee, any of whom would be a far more ridiculous villain than Three the Hard Way's unctuous businessman. The Nazis of Three the Hard Way aren't really your classic movie Nazis: Their hair touches their collars and they are listening to music with acoustic guitars and synthesizers which, as we all know, is mixing the races. Their Nazi banquet is totally dorky--no The Damned or The Night Porter decadence here.

It's pretty obvious that our trio of heroes certainly possess physical, intellectual and sartorial superiority  over these schlubs in berets. (A beret only works if you're a chick doing some kind of Bonnie Parker/Patty Hearst or a guy with good hair and cheekbones that could cut diamonds who is somehow affiliated with MI6.)
The climactic attack on the Nazi mansion has that peculiar day-for-night mix where you keep wondering if the battle took three days or we're on an alternate Earth where the days and nights are 15 minutes long. Still, busting up Nazis in a flawlessly spherical 'fro and black leather pants, Jim Kelly comes off like a cross between Dr. J., Bruce Lee and Iggy Pop. Can you imagine anything cooler? Jim Brown shows off his superior skill at kicking down doors and leaping across furniture while firing a shotgun. Fred Williamson lays waste to many bad guys without taking the grin off of his face or the cigar out of his mouth.

One can fantasize that Eric Garner had been endowed with the cop-clobbering powers of Jim Kelly. Or that right at the moment Dylan Roof raises that gun in the Emanuel Church, Jim Brown busts through a stained-glass window, slides down the aisle and shotguns the little cracker with the Moe Howard haircut. A superhero ass-kicking wasted on a redshirt weasel, but still... 

... anyway, Three the Hard Way could do with a little more plot, but it's still pretty damn gratifying.

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