Written by: John White on May 10th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: US, 1974
Director: Gordon Parks Jr
Cast: Jim Brown, Jim Kelly, Fred Williamson, The Impressions, Sheila Frazier, Jay Robinson
DVD released: Spring 2006
Approximate running time: 93 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Dream disc
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.99
Jim Plait is a top record producer for The Impressions. When one of his friends turns up bleeding to death he hears a crazy story that makes no sense. When his friend is killed in hospital and his girlfriend is kidnapped Jim goes for help to his friends Jagger Daniels and Mister Keyes. Wherever Jim goes he is attacked by goons and once the three brothers capture a goon after a fight in a car wash they get their female torturers on to the job and he gives up the goods about Feather. Feather is a White supremacist who plans to exterminate the Black race by poisoning the water supply in their three home cities. The brothers start out to stop the plan and rescue Jim’s girl.
Take the three most fun Black actors of the seventies and the director of Shaft, and stir in some music from the Impressions. Three the Hard Way is pretty much the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Sure Kelly and Brown are not the world’s greatest actors and the plot of this affair doesn’t bear much looking at, but do you want to watch racist scumbags get theirs from just three black men? Do you want another fight in a car wash after Black Belt Jones? You know you do!
One of the joys of Three the Hard Way is the baddies. Feather, played by Jay Robinson, and his snarling Ilsa like assistant and the requisite mad scientist are so beyond moral redemption that they are set up to be beaten down the moment they enter the film. The police try to entrap Kelly before he kicks their ass in the middle of the street and Williamson and Brown take the goons on in a shoot-out at a games arcade. The brothers have a great car and go everywhere to the terrific sounds of the Impressions.
Parks Jr delivers the action is a consistently serious tone and the sheer incompetence of the baddies is never played for laughs – at one point the evil scientist laments “there is a serious problem with staff around here”! The tone is much like war films where nasty Nazis are there to be killed in ways that the stunt team find most inventive. Three the Hard Way is not a terrific thriller or a political movie, it is a simple poem to the joys of these three stars kicking butt.
The pace of the film is relentless and there are some great setpieces – the three dominatrices who torture the goon are wonderfully introduced on their red, white and blue motorbikes and their desire to terrorise the man in unspeakable ways is very entertaining. To be ultra picky there isn’t enough of Williamson and Kelly can destroy any line, a fact that probably inspired his mute role in Take a Hard Ride.
Three The Hard Way is immense fun, cool as hell and a perfect use of your time.
Dream Disc are a grey market affair and the only way I have found of getting a copy of this film is through ebay. For such a marvelous piece of work that is surprising. The disc is a video port with occasional tracking noise on screen and a lack of sharpness but goodish color balance. The sound is ok but muffled which means that the joyous Impressions music is a little lost. This is also a full frame transfer which means a lot of the film is missing info at left and right of the screen.
There are no extras.
I just don’t understand why no one kosher has released this film as it is terrific entertainment and a Blaxploitation dream team. This is a reasonable quality boot but someone sort it out and release this properly!