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by: Michael Dequina

It would be much too easy to say that 3 Strikes has three strikes against it. But that comment would also give this lame, lewd, lowest-brow comedy more credit than it deserves, for it has far more than three strikes against it. But for the sake of clarity--and for the sake of a cheap and obvious metaphor--I'll keep it at three:

Strike One: There's no real plot. The film gets its title from the "three strikes" law in California--that is, on a criminal's third offense, he's "out" and gets a life sentence in prison. Rob (Brian Hooks) is a two-time offender just out on parole. But his intention of living a life on the straight and narrow with his girl Juanita (N'Bushe Wright) is dashed almost immediately when, on his way home, he gets innocently caught in the middle of a shootout with police, thanks to the friend (De'Aundre Bonds) who picks him up--in a stolen vehicle. It's a thin enough plot set-up, but the rest of the film is even more threadbare storywise, for the movie is less about Rob's attempt to elude the authorities (who, of course, think he actually took part in the gunfight) than a bunch of "outrageous" tangential sidebars.

Strike Two: It's not funny. Writer-director D.J. Pooh thinks that shock value equals laughs, and while this can work (check out the oeuvre of the Farrelly Brothers), it only does so when some imagination is put into the joke. Instead, Pooh goes for the easy, not to mention insulting, gag. One character is shot in the buttocks, so he must lie in a bed with his butt in the air, arousing a stereotypically swishy gay orderly. A heavyset woman will only give Rob a potentially vindicating piece of evidence if he sates her voracious sexual appetite. Rob's uncle is a layabout who just drinks, sleeps, and passes gas all day. And so on.

Strike Three: We simply don't care. To put it lightly, Rob, while well-meaning, isn't a very smart guy, and not endearingly so; why should anyone give a damn if he gets put back in the slammer? The sad thing is, he's the most likable person in the whole film. The men are all crooks, potheads, drunks, or some combination thereof; the women are all either bitches or sluts. So much for a progressive portrayal of African-Americans in film. So much for 3 Strikes having any chance at being any good.

RATING: no stars (out of *****)


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