Saturday, September 30, 2023

#2,929. 3:15 (1986) - Random Musings


The title of this 1986 film is also what everything in the movie builds towards: the big showdown at 3:15 pm. And director Larry Gross manages to generate just enough tension throughout to drag us, scene by scene, to the edge of our seats until that moment the clock tells us it is finally time for shit to go down!

When a street fight with a rival gang ends in tragedy, Jeff Hannah (Adam Baldwin) decides enough is enough, and tells his best friend Cinco (Danny De La Paz), leader of the Cobras, that he’s leaving the gang for good.

A year passes, and Jeff has turned his life around. A star basketball player for Lincoln High, he’s also fallen in love with pretty classmate Sherry (Deborah Foreman). But the Cobras still run the school, shaking down kids for money and peddling drugs in the halls and bathrooms.

In an effort to rid his school of Cinco and the other Cobras, Principal Horner (Rene Auberjonois) works closely with Detective Moran (Ed Lauter) of the local precinct to arrange a police raid, in the hopes of catching the Cobras with enough drugs on them to put them away for good.

While running from the cops, Cinco asks his old pall Jeff to help him, but Jeff refuses. Arrested and dragged off to jail, an angry Cinco vows revenge on his old buddy. Jeff takes Cinco’s threats in stride, until Cinco and the other cobras are back on the streets, released due to “insufficient evidence”.

Cinco is as determined as ever to make an example of his former pal, and tells Jeff to meet him on school grounds at 3:15 that afternoon. Though he promised Sherry he wouldn’t fight anymore, Jeff has no choice but to stand up to Cinco, even if doing so may cost him his life.

Subtitled The Moment of Truth, 3:15 boasts good performances by both Baldwin (likable as the former gang thug turned jock) and Foreman (as the girl who loves him). Both are upstaged time and again, however, by De La Paz as the vindictive and violent Cinco. De La Paz may have less screen time than his co-stars, and occasionally walks a fine line between genuine intensity and over-the-top bravado (especially in the final act), but there’s no denying the movie is better when his Cinco is front and center.

3:15 also features a solid, rock-heavy soundtrack; and a few early action scenes, including the gang battle that causes the rift between Jeff and Cinco and the police raid on Lincoln High, get the audience’s adrenaline pumping right out of the gate.

But like High Noon before it, what makes 3:15 so good is the build-up to the inevitable showdown between the hero and villain, a final battle that everyone in school knows is coming. Try as he might to forget Cinco is out to get him, Jeff is reminded at damn near every turn, by damn near everybody in school, including former girlfriend (and Cinco’s new squeeze) Lora (Wendy Barry); his basketball teammates Chris (Scott McGinnis) and Jim (John Scott Clough); and Principal Horner himself, who figures, one way or another, this will end Cinco’s reign of terror at Lincoln High (if Jeff wins, Cinco loses his position of power. If he kills Jeff, Cinco will finally be locked up for good). Jeff even gets some friendly advice from Whisperer (a young Mario Van Peebles), leader of a rival school gang, who is looking to take over once Cinco and the Cobras are out.

Jeff has promised Sherry he will not fight, but as 3:15 pm draws closer, pretty much everyone, characters and audience alike, know it’s a promise he cannot keep. Nobody lets poor Jeff forget what will eventually go down, and by focusing so intently on his dilemma, we feel, even share his building concern, to the point that, when 3:15 finally rolls around, it’s almost a relief. The suspense is over.

And what does go down at 3:15 was worth all the hype leading up to it!
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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