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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » 3 A.M.
3 A.M.
Showtime // Unrated // March 26, 2002
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 7, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Lee Davis worked his way up the 40 Acres And A Mule ladder, starting off as part of the craft service team on Mo' Better Blues, moving up to a P.A. on Jungle Fever and Malcolm X, and eventually pulling in second A.D. duties on Crooklyn. Davis apparently inspired enough confidence in mentor Spike Lee for him to bankroll 3 A.M., which was written by Davis and marks his feature-length directorial debut.

3 A.M., among its innumerable subplots, focuses on the lives of three cab drivers in the Big Apple. Hershey (Danny Glover) played for the Knicks in decades past that has fallen on hard times and is unable to commit to his girlfriend (Pam Grier). Salgado (up-and-comer Michelle Rodriguez) is a loca latina convinced that the spirit of a man she murdered years ago has returned to exact his vengeance. Finally, there's Rasha (Sergej Trifunovic, who had previously worked with Davis on Munje!), a Bosnian immigrant hopelessly in love with a bathhouse masseuse and unable to go a week without an accident of some sort. In the background is a serial killer that has it in for cab drivers, and one of our plucky heroes may be next. These guys have enough problems of their own, though, ranging from fatal gunplay, unrequited love, uncertainty about whether or not family members are alive, catastrophic hit and runs, to fist fights in the street.

The copy on the packaging overexaggerates the serial killer aspect, when really that's an almost inconsequential part of the storyline. He's forgotten for much of the film. That a cabbie-murdering serial killer takes the backseat (no pun intended) in this movie is indicative of its lack of focus. There's too much going on throughout the 91 minute runtime, and certain portions remain terribly underdeveloped. The discovery of a suitcase filled to the brim with cash is not mentioned again until a voiceover that plays as the end credit rolls. The hot-headed Salgado finds a roach in her take-out, but instead of strolling right back into the restaurant and confronting the manager with her discover, she saves up her anger for another visit without the slightest amount of proof in hand. There's no trace of chemistry between Danny Glover and Pam Grier, and it's an utter mystery why this role left Grier graced with an Image Award nomination for Outstanding Actress. That's not to put down Grier at all, but she's given precious little to do in a role that is neither interesting, challenging, nor at all memorable. Certain ill-fated actions made by Salgado and Rasha are utterly reprehensible, their responses are cowardly, yet there are no apparent consequences for either of them. One character is actually rewarded with freedom for a hit-and-run, and I suppose the fact that the hapless victim didn't die is considered a "happy ending". There didn't appear to be any real closure for the subplot involving the financially-strapped cab company either. Maybe that was covered in the end credits voiceover too and I missed it. Oh well. Davis should have considered either extended the length of the film, perhaps into a two-part miniseries, or cutting out some subplots altogether. 3 A.M. is not a bad movie, but it does feel incomplete.

Those who missed 3 A.M. on Showtime last summer now have an opportunity to catch it on DVD, though any differences between this disc and its initial cable broadcasts are slight.

Video: 3 A.M. gets the full-frame treatment from Showtime. I suppose that's the original aspect ratio in the sense that it did indeed premiere in that form on cable television. I'm unsure if the film was intended to get some sort of theatrical run, and I have been unable to find any information on how 3 A.M. was presented during its screening at Sundance. In any event, 3 A.M. is at best an incremental improvement over the general appearances of movies on cable, and I'd be willing to be that this DVD is indistinguishable from what subscribers to Showtime see over digital cable and DSS. You know the drill, though: very minor speckling, colors are fairly vibrant and appear to be accurately saturated, there is no intrusive grain or edge haloes, and so on and so forth... The image doesn't have the sort of razor-sharp clarity typical of such a recent production, though it doesn't seem excessively soft or particularly unnatural for a relatively low-budget effort. The presentation is fine, but those who have caught 3 A.M. before aren't going to spot anything considerably different with this DVD.

Audio: Stereo surround tracks in English and Spanish are included on this DVD release of 3 A.M. The English track, much like the overall quality of the video, is roughly comparable to your average made-for-cable production. The low end is a tad flat (a mild surprise, since the music that plays over the menus is really thumpin'), and surround use is on the weak side. The original music by Branford Marsalis, formerly of The Tonight Show, is respectable and nicely spread across the front portion of the soundstage. The audio on 3 A.M. is nothing remarkable, but still more than adequate.

Supplements: 3 A.M. exists in a world where the option to choose different languages is considered a "special feature". The disc is barebones, offering filmographies, trailers for five other Showtime titles (curiously enough, 3 A.M. is not among them), and a link to Showtime's website.

Conclusion: 3 A.M. is the sort of movie that I would happily watch on Showtime late on a Wednesday night, and I'm sure I'd enjoy somewhat as well. This is passable fare (okay, that time the pun was intended), but I wouldn't be willing to plunk down three bucks to rent it, let alone the asking price of $24.98. I'd suggest keeping an eye on cable listings unless you absolutely cannot stomach the wait.
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