Three The Hard Way

Just a reminder...

As you should know by now, I love Blaxploitation films. I was raised on Blaxploitation films and still find them an endless source of excitement and thrills.

Just the image of the seeing a black man conquering all challenges and racist villains still thrills me to no end. Which is why I liked Django Unchained so much, because it was nothing more but a straight up Blaxploitation film writ large on a huge canvas. And the final bloody climax where Django wiped out all those Confederate red necks and slave overseers was just a more expansive and bloodier copy of the similar “wipe-out-every-motherf-----r-in-the-place” climax by Jim Brown in Slaughter’s Big Rip Off.

But I’ve never been exactly fond of the term Blaxploitation, the not-really-so-clever mix of black and exploitation, for those films from the early to late 70s. The word exploitation suggests something minor, cheap and tawdry. And while admittedly many exploitation films were, but it was almost always in an entertaining way. I’ve never found Blaxploitation films to be minor films. In many ways, many of them were more profound and substantial than are given credit for, and they had and still have a major visceral impact on me.

And when it comes to Blaxploitation films, I’ve always strongly believed that the ultimate, most ambitious and most perfect example of the genre was Gordon Parks Jr’s 1974 film Three The Hard Way. It’s a wild, loopy, illogical, James Bondian action adventure, with a great premise, that no Hollywood studio would have the guts to make again now.

The film had a budget of $2 million, which was hyped at the time as the most expensive Blaxploitation film ever produced ($2 million went a lot further in those days), and the film showed off the budget with elaborate stunts and set pieces and location shooting in L.A., Washington D.C. New York and Chicago.

It deals with three friends (or The Big Three as they are so rightfully called in the trailer for the film below), Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and the late great martial arts legend Jim Kelly, who team together to stop a mad plot by a white supremacist millionaire to contaminate the country’s water supply with a special chemical created that will only poison and kill off every black person in the U.S.

You may laugh and call it far-fetched, but who couldn’t resist the basic idea of three black men saving the entire black race? It’s a concept that, in this current troubled day and age, even sounds more relevant since you just know there are some Tea Partiers and rabid white supremacist groups who just salivate at the idea of pulling off a crazy plot like that for real, right now.

The film was the third of only four films directed by Parks Jr., the son of the legendary director, photographer, composer, author and renaissance man Gordon Parks. He had burst onto the film scene with his first feature film, the 1972 near classic Super Fly, and, by the time he made Hard Way, he was solidly establishing a career as a major filmmaker.

However, his career was unfortunately cut short when he was killed in a plane crash in Kenya in 1979, while scouting locations for a new film. Though people will name Super Fly as their favorite film by him,  I still contend that Three The Hard Way id his best film.

And the film gives what I call the "last full bloom" of hard core black masculinity on the screen, with Brown, Williamson and Kelly. And let’s face it, you couldn’t make a film like this today. Where are you going to get three black actors to pull off those roles? Terence Howard, Kevin Hart and Michael Ealy?

See what I mean? It just isn’t the same. If they tried to stop a plot to kill off all black people, we would all be dead by now. O.K. yeah that was cold, but admit it, I’m right aren’t I?

So when I was asked to host another screening at the Black Cinema House in Chicago, I didn’t have to think twice. The screening will happen on this Sunday March 2 starting at 4PM.

And as always seating is FREE, but you have to RSVP HERE.