Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hot Sex Does Not a Good Film Make- But It Certainly Helps: "3-Way" (2004)



The old film noir standbys are dusted off and presented for the viewer's pleasure- sex, murder, double crosses; and yet through it all Gina Gershon somehow manages to keep her clothes on.

Lew (Dominic Purcell) is a handsome thug with a run of bad luck. His wife Janice (an unrecognizable Roxana Zal, in case you were wondering what happened to her) has just dumped his loser butt. He does a little dumping of his own, tossing the bullet riddled bodies of Janice and her new boyfriend in the Pacific Ocean. Eight months later, Lew lives next door to an abandoned gas station keeping busy painting signs, avoiding the cops, and banging local realtor Rita (Joy Bryant).

One night, Lew overhears businessman Ralph (Desmond Harrington) and his girlfriend Isobel (Ali Larter) plot to kidnap and murder Ralph's shrewish wife Florence (Gina Gershon), whose family is rich. Lew decides to kidnap the kidnapped and keep the money for himself. Okey dokey, we've got a smart plan and nothing could possibly go wrong to spoil this.

Except...a very strange man named Herbert (Dwight Yoakam) contacts Rita, wanting to buy the land Lew is living on. In actuality, Herbert is the brother of dead Janice's dead boyfriend, and he needs the brother's body to claim an inheritance. That's all well and good, except Lew may not have killed Janice and her boyfriend, and we still have a kidnapping that goes all sorts of wrong.

Director Ziehl has a lot of fun with the pulpy screenplay, based on a novel by Gil Brewer. His trippy visuals include fast and slow motion, and time lapse photography, all of which throws the viewer off kilter. I could have done without the endless shots of Lew getting a beer, and Rita storming out of his house in a sexy huff, but that might be blamed on the screenwriter. This is an exaggerated look at the lives of a bunch of losers, and Ziehl lets the audience in on his smirking attitude. The entire cast is good across the board. Bryant, Larter, and Gershon are no femme fatales, but the sexual tension radiates from them in waves. Gershon's role is pretty small, but she plays very well off of Harrington's idiotic Ralph.

Never you mind that Purcell looks like Jim Belushi on the DVD cover, he does a great job as Lew. Lew is about as smart as a bag of hair, and I was glad Purcell played him only slightly sympathetic. Harrington is a hoot as Ralph, and Yoakam downplays the psychotic Herbert, much to my relief.

So, all the elements are here, and they are all done well. Hot sex scenes, violence, suspense; all the well worn and tried and true ingredients; and therein lies the problem. From "Double Indemnity" to "Body Heat," from Bogie and Bacall to Travolta and Thurman, we have been down this dusty noir road before. While watching the film, I was reminded of many other "kidnappings gone awry" flicks like "Ruthless People," "Ransom," and "Trapped," to name just three. "3-Way" is no different. It is no better or worse than any of those other films, but it breezes through for almost ninety minutes, and then ends, becoming dangerously forgettable.

"3-Way" would be totally comfortable playing on Spike TV or Cinemax at two in the morning. You won't be bored, and it sure beats the hell out of juicer infomercials. (* * *) out of five stars. Get this film now!: 3 Way