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"3 STRIKES"
(2000) (Brian Hooks, N'Bushe Wright) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A recently released, twice-convicted convict tries to clear his name from a third crime that will send him back to prison for twenty-five years.
PLOT:
Hoping to get his life back on track and avoid a third conviction that would send him back to prison for at least twenty-five years under the "three strikes and you're out" law, Rob Douglas (BRIAN HOOKS) has just been released from prison for conviction number two. Things immediately go awry when his delinquent friend JJ (DE'AUNDRE BONDS) picks him up instead of Tone (FAIZON LOVE), another buddy from the 'hood.

After sharing a joint, Rob learns that the car JJ's driving is stolen and then flees the scene after JJ gets into a gun battle with the police who've pulled them over. After laying low for a while, Rob visits his indignant girlfriend, Juanita (N'BUSHE WRIGHT), and then heads home to see his mother (STARLETTA DuPOIS) and father, "Pops" (GEORGE WALLACE). While his mom is concerned but happy to see him, his father gets after him to the point that Rob decides to leave home.

Things get worse for Rob as local police detective Jenkins (DAVID ALAN GRIER) eventually figures out Rob's identity, while Tone is after him as well for not backing up JJ who's now in the hospital with a gunshot wound to the butt.

With the help of Mike (E40), a local entrepreneur and Dahlia (MO'NIQUE), a woman with a vital piece of evidence, Rob tries to clear his name while avoiding Tone, Jenkins and the rest of the LAPD.

OUR TAKE: 0 out of 10
As many of you are probably aware, there's a controversial law in existence nicknamed, "Three Strikes and You're Out," where a criminal, if convicted of a third crime, is sent away for a long time so as not to have the opportunity to commit more. While that seems to make perfect sense to most people (who probably favor only giving the criminals one or two such strikes), there are some who oppose it for various reasons we won't get into here.

It's doubtful, however, that many people would object to such a law if made applicable to movies and filmmakers. Imagine if there were a "cinema sheriff" on the set of any given movie and if he or she saw three instances of bad filmmaking - horrible writing, inept direction and/or bad acting for instance - the film would then be arrested and sent away for decades before it would ever see the light of day (or, as we always say, the light of any projector).

At the same time, any filmmaker who released three bad films in their career would similarly be locked up and thus not allowed to rob other films, inflict undue pain and suffering on the masses or pollute theaters with celluloid garbage. Such laws would certainly make filmmakers and studios more carefully examine the projects they take on or approve, and would ultimately make going to the movies a more enjoyable experience.

While music video veteran turned film director D.J. Pooh can obviously only be considered a first time offender with his release of "3 Strikes," since it's his first feature, the film should have received the "Strike Three - You're Out!" label long before it ever got the chance to make it to the big screen. An inner-city targeted picture that's so bad it makes films such as "Next Friday" look like Oscar worthy contenders, this production could literally necessitate the complete list of synonym entries for adjectives such as "horrible," "atrocious" and "worthless" (to name a few) just to begin describing it.

A lame and shameful cousin to the convict based films that stars Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence have carried in the past, this one's so bad that such performers would have either heavily rewritten the script or simply avoided it altogether. Although it could be argued that the main gist of the plot - a recently released ex-con scrambles to clear his name from a third crime that will put him away for twenty-five years -- has some comedic potential, it's never realized in the mess that ultimately comes out of the front of the projector.

Of course, if you're idea of funny is watching yet another film that features -and should embarrass - African Americans who act like sex-crazed idiots and/or criminals - then this feature might be right up your alley. As with such targeted films, there are plenty of those characters, as well as the usual lineup of shapely and/or horny women in tight-fitting outfits, farting sounds and enough profanity and uses of "nigger" and "bitch" to set back the efforts of other African Americans years, if not decades.

Yes, I understand that it's only a movie and a supposed comedy. That's fine and dandy, but the film isn't making fun of such stereotypes -- as other films have done in the past - but instead uses them to promote "comic" fodder for its intended audience. Unfortunately, none of its funny and Pooh, who also wrote the screenplay, simply turns the film into a series of spectacularly lame vignettes that don't work on their own and certainly don't help the overall film. As a result, there's absolutely no momentum - comedic or otherwise - to propel the film or hold one's interest in what transpires (which isn't much).

One can't tell if there's any thespian talent to be found amongst the performers that include Brian Hooks ("Phat Beach," "Bullworth") as the ex-con, N'Bushe Wright ("Blade," "Dead Presidents") as his girlfriend or Faizon Love ("Friday," "The Player's Club") as the local thug, since they're asked to overact and over-emote throughout the production. Even more "seasoned" actors such as David Alan Grier ("Return to Me," "McHale's Navy") are completely hampered by the incredibly weak script and poorly drawn and inexplicably behaving characters, and one actor in a supporting role even appeared to be reading his lines off a cue card.

In the press kit, Pooh (who co-wrote the film "Friday") is quoted as saying, "There's not enough Black product out there in the film market," which is why he decided to make this film. Unfortunately, it's a horrible representation of what black filmmakers can produce, and it only reinforces negative stereotypes while never having the chance to cross over to non-black audiences. While there's a place and a market for all sorts of films, it's long past time for these sorts of films to be retired, or better yet, locked up for a long time so that no one can see them. Featuring enough cinematic criminal offenses - including bad writing, directing and acting - to warrant several life sentences, the film rates as a 0 out of 10.




Reviewed March 1, 2000 / Posted March 3, 2000


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