I don't know if it's some form of DVD reviewer karma but soon after I finished my review of the Robert Mitchum classic Out of the Past I sat down to watch the much more recent 3 Way, which turned out to be something of an homage to that film noir staple. While 3 Way may retain some of the tough characterizations and plot twists of the earlier film, it lacks the subtlety, wit and style.
The plot follows Lew (Dominic Purcell, star of TV's short-lived "John Doe") as he tries to put his sordid past, which may or may not include a double murder, behind him and start over in a small rural town. His new girlfriend Rita (Joy Bryant) only knows him as the gruff and somewhat mysterious sign painter with a sweet soul. By total chance Lew overhears a couple of morons, Ralph and Isobel (Desmond Harrington and Ali Larter) parked in the middle of nowhere discussing a possible kidnaping plot. All of this happens in the first 15 minutes, which also includes three sex scenes. The rest of the film's short 88 minute running time concerns Lew's attempts to turn Ralph and Isobel's plan into a money making scheme for himself.
There's also the matter of Herbert (Dwight Yoakam) who wants Lew to tell him how to find the bodies he left behind in his former life. Herbert has Lew's old gun and blackmails him by saying he'll give it to the police. Which is funny. Because there are no bodies to match the gun to. Which is the whole reason Herbert has contacted Lew. To find the bodies. But anyway.
That's about the extent of smarts that went into planning the various heists. I understand that these aren't supposed to be smart characters but it feels like the film sort of thinks that they are (as opposed to, say, Nic Cage's character in Red Rock West who knew he was a loser and proved it time and again.) I mean, is Rita supposed to not wonder why a sign painter has a loaded gun laying around for no apparent reason? Only Gina Gershon's kidnap victim Florence seems to have any brains, calling just about everyone else in the film an idiot at one point or another.
If the schemes in the film were at least stupid but twisty that too would be better. But the most complicated that they get is the put-the-money-in-a-bag type. Nothing to really wrap your imagination around. The dialog is similarly clunky, with attempts to bring the classic noir sarcasm but falling flat. And this is yet another film that proves that more is sometimes less. The on-screen sex is unimaginative and actually detracts from the film; When you know that the running time is short and precious plot minutes are running down, yet you still have to sit through a truly gratuitous shower humping or hand job, you just know the film has run out of ideas.
3 Way is based on a novel from 1963, so saying it's a rip-off of Out of the Past is not really accurate (even if a character does say the words "out of the past" at one point.) Still, the way it uses many of the exact same plot devices creates a been-there-done-that-better feeling. From the lead male recapping his old life for his new girl to the details of the blackmail to the escape with the money final plan to the beach, it's basically the same movie. Unlike the earlier film, however, the ending of 3 Way is disingenuous and nonsensical.
Some would argue that you can't even make a film noir in color and recent attempts like 2 Days in the Valley and Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead would seem to support that theory. But what's really missing here isn't just the surface of the classic noirs but the heart and soul. 3 Way (which for all its huffing and puffing doesn't even feature the titular sex act) is 1/2 Assed.