Plot: Rob Douglas (Brian Hooks) has just been released from prison and he has no intentions of ever returning to that hell hole. In fact, Rob will do whatever it takes to keep away from prison, and he means whatever it takes. If he does wind up back in the clink, it would mark his third visit and as such, he faces a minimum of twenty-five years in the slammer. Whether he steals a car, commits murder, or jaywalks, Rob will locked up for a good, long time. So Rob is not only going to be playing things safe, he’ll make sure to stay away from any chances of getting into trouble with the law. But sometimes you just can’t keep away from trouble, since it comes looking for you. Such is the case for Rob, as his ride picks him up from prison in…of all things, a stolen car. One encounter (more like shoot out) with the police and Robs ends up running away, but he is caught on tape and can’t hide forever. Rob is innocent in this case and he wants to do good, but this time the fates have handed him a bum sandwich. Can he clear his name and remain a free man, or is he bound to head back to the big house for this third strike?
Entertainment Value: This movie didn’t last long at the theaters, as neither critics or audiences responded well. The movie hasn’t found much of an audience in the years since release either, but I think 3 Strikes is better than its reputation suggests. No, the movie isn’t some comedic landmark or overly memorable picture, but it has a fun cast and some effective humor. You need to like movies of this ilk, kind of the b tier of urban comedies, but if you do then this picture is one you might like. The cast is quirky and hilarious, while the writing solid and provides ample chances for the actors to make us laugh. This isn’t a deep, complex story about the human condition, but it is a funny and light flick that is more than worth a look. Could it have been better? Of course. A more consistent flow of humor and perhaps a little more character development could have worked wonders here. But I think 3 Strikes is dismissed by a lot of people who might have fun with it, based on the poor word of mouth.
The movie boasts an impressive lineup of talent, though some are obviously given more time to shine than others. This film might sport an ensemble cast, but Brian Hooks is the man responsible for how well this one turned out. Even when the writing is shaky or off point, Hooks is able to make it work. A lesser comedic performer would have lost much of the humor from the material, but Hooks is able to bring it out well and even make the lines funnier than they should be, in some cases. Hooks isn’t a household name by any means, but he plays this one a true professional and more than proves his mettle as a comedic actor. N’Bushe Wright and Faizon love have effective roles, while a tidal wave of familiar faces appear in smaller roles and cameos. You’ll find George Wallace, Meagan Good, Dean Norris, David Alan Grier, Antonio Fargas, Mo’Nique, and even Mike Epps popping in at times in this one. Again, I can’t make a case for 3 Strikes as an overlooked comic gem, but I do think the movie is solid fun and the cast alone makes it worth a look for fans of those involved.