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THREE WAY (director: Scott Ziehl; screenwriters: from the novel by Gil Brewer “Wild To Possess”/Russell P. Marleau; cinematographer: Antonio Calvache; editor: Debra Goldfield; music: Christopher Hoag; cast: Dominic Purcell (Lewis ‘Lew’ Brookbank), Joy Bryant (Rita Caswell), Ali Larter (Isobel Delano), Desmond Harrington (Ralph Hagen), Dwight Yoakam (Herbert Claremont/Clarkson), Gina Gershon (Florence DeCroix Hagen) Roxana Zal (Janice Brookbank), Dan Martin (Patrolman); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Russell P. Marleau/Christian Mills; Columbia TriStar Home Video; 2004)
“Never reaches above a low water mark.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A sleazy neo-noir direct-to-video that features a capable cast but it never reaches above a low water mark. Paying tribute to Jacques Tourneur’ 1947 classic Out of the Past that starred Robert Mitchum, it never comes close to that film’s wit and superb way of telling a story. Three Way is based on the 1963 pulp novel by Gil Brewer entitled “Wild To Possess.” Director Scott Ziehl (“Broken Vessels”/”Proximity”/”Cruel Intentions 3”) gets all twisted up in knots with a story that’s too twisted to shake out for real, and his uninspired direction can’t keep things from falling apart.

Career petty crime criminal Lew Brookbank discovers on a boat docked in San Diego the dead bodies of his estranged wife Janice and her lover, and in a panic dumps their bodies at sea. One night, a few months down the road from the boat incident, Lew is a drifter and lands in his new seacoast California residence where he works as a sign painter, parks his pickup in the secluded field after placing his unauthorized signs along the road and observes a young couple, Ralph (Desmond Harrington) and Isobel (Ali Larter), screwing in the back seat of their car. Lew tracks down the antique store owner Isobel through a slogan on the fender of her car and plans to rob her house while she’s at work. But while in the middle of the robbery, the single Isobel brings her married lover Ralph home for a quickie. When they discuss plans to stage a kidnapping of Ralph’s bitchy wealthy wife, Florence (Gina Gershon), and hold her for a million dollar ransom before killing her, Lew who hid in the closet sees this as a better opportunity to get some bread than the robbery. With his black real estate agent girlfriend Rita Caswell (Joy Bryant), Lew schemes to remove the ransom money from the kidnappers and take Florence from them to prevent her death. But their plans get harder to carry out when the psychopathic Herbert Claremont (Dwight Yoakam) shows up and orders Lew to tell him where he buried the body of the man on the boat. It seems that was his brother and he needs his corpse to collect on the family will.

This film had its share of oversights from no FBI involved in the kidnapping to an over complicated kidnapping murder tale that belies any logical working order. There were enough holes in the tired story for the slick film to never cohere as a whole, as it sinks into a forgettable mediocre film. It’s the kind of superficial and lazily made film that thinks it can get over by getting as many film noir conventions down as possible.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”