Three O’Clock High (1987)

26 Mar


Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Three O’Clock High” is a movie about the events leading up to a fight, and then the actual fight itself. It sounds like a plot for a Western, but has been brought to life as a high school movie. That’s actually a nice move and has potential for a charming movie, but the fight is far from charming.

You could call this movie a mix between “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and “Risky Business.” It features a nervous, bright high school senior named Jerry (Casey Siemaszko) who is having “one of those days.” He’s late for school, his car has a flat tire, and he takes his mom’s car (with the license plate SUPRMOM). But it can only get worse, and it does. Everyone is spreading rumors about the new kid in school named Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson), a mean-spirited bully who’s said to have raped a teacher, killed a student, etc. Jerry, who works for the school newspaper, is asked to write a piece about him. Unfortunately, his questions make Buddy angry and he challenges Jerry to a fight in front of the school at 3:00. Jerry has six hours to get out of fighting Buddy and in that duration, he gets mixed up in all sorts of situations that involve breaking the rules.

There are ways of avoiding the fight, and they all go wrong. Unfortunately, a lot of these situations are not only pointless, but also questionable. There’s a subplot involving a switchblade intended for a frame job—Jerry’s nerdy friend Vince has an idea to plant it into Buddy’s locker as an attempt to get him kicked out of school. The plan goes wrong, but what I want to know is where and how did this guy get a switchblade? This is the editor of the school newspaper—does he just carry around a switchblade every day at school? This is a school full of high school stereotypes—did he convince one of the “burnouts” to lend him one? And in a short amount of time, no less? Why didn’t we see that story?

What’s the story with the bully? Is he a complete and total psychopath like everyone says? Is there another side to him? We hear about his violent nature; is it true? It must be. There’s nothing else in the entire duration of the movie to say otherwise. At least when a character like this was introduced in the high school comedy-drama “My Bodyguard,” the hero managed to befriend a bulking so-called monster because they both learned how to get along with each other. This bully in “Three O’Clock High” isn’t falling for any of that. He will fight Jerry no matter what it takes—he even manages to find Jerry’s car (how he did that, I don’t know) and destroy everything under the hood just so he doesn’t get away.

“Three O’Clock High” is a well-made movie—the use of unusual cinematography, camera angles, zooms, and closeups are quite interesting and make the movie about as well-made as a movie about a high school fight could be. Also, the way it takes a Western plot and takes it high school is quite interesting as it constantly builds up the entire six hours waiting for it. And it does have its memorable, funny moments. I especially liked a sequence in which Jerry tries to get in trouble so he could get detention and thus not go through with the fight. How he handles his book report is very funny. He acts rebellious, smokes, and even kisses his teacher who’s somewhat turned on—“Now that’s what I call a book report,” a student exclaims. There are moments like that, and I could forgive the stupid parts of the movie and recommend it based on those. But I’m not recommending the movie because the final climax involving the fight is too grim and so brutal that it breaks the spirit of the whole thing.

It’s a pretty intense fight, but there’s nothing fresh or funny about it, and the final blow just about did it for me. Should I even mention the brass knuckles? Everyone was cheering, but my jaw was dropped.

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