3 Strikes

Three strikes, and you're out (or, alternately, sent to 25 years in prison). That's the situation a young ex-convict faces, after just being released for serving time for his second crime, when he finds himself accused of a third crime he didn't commit.

Our hero Rob Douglas (Brian Hooks) gets into trouble when he is picked up by J.J. (De'Aundre Bonds) in a stolen car. When the police try to stop them, J.J. opens fire (and gets shot in the arse). Rob runs away, but not before the police camera catches him on tape. He then becomes a fugitive, running not only from the police, but also from J.J. and his cronies who are out to get him. The movie becomes a showcase for Douglas' antics involving various chase scenes and escapades.

The movie has a lot of potential, since it touches upon a lot of important socio-political issues, including those related to life in South Central Los Angeles. These include the fairness of California's "three strikes" law, the double-crossing nature of people like J.J, and the behaviour of the police (which is especially pertinent given the recent high profile New York City cases involving Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo, and the LAPD being placed under review for corruption). However, it does take a bit of imagination to see the virtues. It is easily argued that the movie doesn't live up to its potential: 3 Strikes goes about constantly making fun and throwing gags at the audience (sometimes incoherently) without pausing to take stock of the deeper issues. But perhaps that's the point: to those willing to make the effort, the deeper issues are obvious and there's no need to proselytise.

Hooks is a funny actor, and at times reminiscent of comedians like Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy; N'Bushe Wright does well as Douglas' love interest and her loyalty is touching; Lt. Jenkins (David Alan Grier) is great as an angry police officer; and George Wallace's pride in his son running from the police is almost convincing. The pacing is good, but the movie itself is sloppily directed (by D.J. Pooh). Fortunately, Hooks and the supporting cast do a fine job of carrying the film and the improvisational feel is refreshing. While a lot of the script is funny, I found the flatulence gags to be a bit incongruous. The portrayal of the police officers (including one who plays an extremely interesting video game) is hilarious. The all-rap sound track is fairly decent.

I have often lamented the fact that even though movies like There's Something About Mary or Austin Powers, and shows like The Simpsons and Seinfeld, are incredibly funny and play off extremely cleverly on pop-culture, they are limited to a specific kind of humour that relates to the mainstream (i.e., white) populace. There's nothing wrong with this, especially since the shows are funny, but I think it is missing out on a lot.

Being non-politically correct for a bit, I find the presence of "black humour" (i.e., humour that is related to black pop-culture) pervading the mainstream to be interesting. To some degree, shows like South Park have incorporated this successfully, and I laud the creators for encouraging this paradigm shift. 3 Strikes follows this mold and for that reason alone, I highly recommend checking it out. More movies in this vein with better production values and some thought are highly welcome.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org