House (Junero Jennings) has been in trouble before, but nothing like this as he is trapped in a compound where a group of his fellow African-Americans have been imprisoned. Yet this is no jail, it's a highly secret establishment that he is determined to escape from, so he manages to overpower a guard after hiding in a room full of dead bodies, and slips out the back way, though not before he is seriously injured in the process. He hijacks a car with the gun he has picked up and demands to be taken to Los Angeles, which the shocked couple agree to. There's only one man who can help him now - or are there three...?
Three the Hard Way was the blaxploitation equivalent of a supergroup of rock stars banding together, starring as it did the iconic in the genre talents of Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly, all fresh from star making enterprises, and Super Fly director Gordon Parks Jr at the helm. Both Brown and Williamson had been legendary football players, of course, and Kelly had made waves as a karate champion though at the time, and at this time for that matter, was best known for his appearance alongside Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. Three examples of strapping black manhood in their prime there, so what adversary could possibly represent any kind of trouble for them?
Well, the answer to that was nobody, as you find out when you watch this as the movie is a delivery method for the pleasure you can take in watching this supertough trio kick white supremacist ass for ninety minutes. Yes, it's the neo-Nazis who they have to take on, which at least made a change from the usual overweight white gangsters in flared trousers that made up most of the baddies in this type of thing. The plot edges towards science fiction territory as the racist scum dare to attempt a scheme that will see all African-Americans wiped out thanks to a mad scientist who has devised a virus to be placed in the water supply of three major U.S. cities that only affects the racial minority.
Well, they patently don't stand a chance with Brown, Williamson and Kelly about, as their characters decide not to approach the authorities when they get wind of the conspiracy, and take matters into their own hands. We are introduced to them in singular ways: Brown strolls around town with his woman Wendy (Sheila Frazier), and we know she's called that because The Impressions are crooning a ballad to her on the soundtrack. Brown is playing a record producer, so the group get their own cameo appearance in the studio before the story begins with a vengeance. Next up Williamson makes his entrance by being wrestled to the ground by Jim, all in play but as he nearly gets shot by The Hammer perhaps it wasn't the best course of action as it could have been a shorter film than intended.
Kelly gets the most memorable introduction, minding his own business and going to his car when he gets hassled by The Man, a group of cops who have planted a kilo of drugs in his vehicle. After introducing his actual name as Mister Keyes (because his mama wanted people to show him respect), he knock seven bells out of the crooked fuzz in a scene that must have gone over like gangbusters with its target audience at the time. All that out of the way, our three heroes must assemble to not only find the base of operations the supremacists are hanging out at, but also Wendy, who has been kidnapped by the scoundrels. With the bad guys and good guys so clearly denoted, there's not much here that will trouble the great intellects, but Three the Hard Way appeals to that populist side of the moviegoer who wants to see plentiful action (Hal Needham took care of the stunts) with a dose of humour and a healthy measure of outrageousness - check out the topless dominatrices who wheedle information out of a suspect. If this sounds good to you, then you'll like it a lot. Music by Richard Tufo.