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March 10 - 17, 2000

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3 Strikes

by Mike Miliard

3 Strikes This one used up all three of 'em in the first few minutes. Friday co-writer D.J. Pooh's directorial debut, ostensibly designed to make light of California's "three-strikes" mandatory minimum-sentencing laws and their effect on the black community, is about as much fun as a 25-year sentence.

Do you think a 90-minute screed of expletives, n-words, and crude racial stereotypes is funny? Did you know all black guys drink 40s, smoke a lot of dope, and like a nice round ass? It's funny to see a black guy being chased by the cops down an LA freeway, right? (Especially when he's in a huge SUV being driven by his friend and it's all being televised via overhead helicopters -- sound familiar?) So now Martin Luther King Jr.'s "free at last" speech refers to getting out of jail, and it seems especially eloquent following a brilliant comic soliloquy about how much pussy our young protagonist Rob (Brian Hooks) will be getting once he's sprung. Somehow I don't think this is the dream the good doctor had in mind.

It doesn't have to be this way. Other comedies have been populated with such base caricatures, but in those films (Don't Be a Menace to South Central . . . , Fear of a Black Hat) they were intentional and satiric. Here the drunken, flatulent uncles and dope-smokin' cops don't seem so ironic. Fortunately, the audience still is; at the opening-day screening I attended, its comments were a hell of a lot funnier than the film.

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