The killer, the girl, and the cop all have split-personalities. They're all Judge Joel Pearce. Isn't that f**ked up?
"The only idea more overused than serial killers is multiple personality. On top of that, you explore the notion that cop and criminal are really two aspects of the same person. See every cop movie ever made for other examples of this."—Charlie Kaufman
"Mom called it 'psychologically taut.'"—Donald Kaufman, Adaptation
When I first saw release information for Thr3e, my first thought went to 2002's Adaptation and my jaw dropped. Surely they wouldn't actually use Donald's screenplay idea for a film. It had to be a coincidence. Well, coincidence or not, that's exactly what the makers of Thr3e have done. Of course, the resulting film is a mess, made more troubling by the fact that it's designed to be a serial killer movie for Christians.
Kevin (Marc Blucas, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is a seminary student in the middle of writing his thesis on the nature of evil. One day, he gets a phone call from the riddle killer, a serial murderer who's been active in the area. It seems that the killer knows something about Kevin's past, and he's not prepared to let go. Kevin gets the immediate aid of two women. The first is childhood friend Samantha (Laura Jordan, The Twenty). The second is police detective Jennifer Peters (Justine Waddell, Dracula 2000). Now they will all need to work together if Kevin is going to survive. But dark things lurk in Kevin's past: things that could mean more than just his destruction…
There are, ironically, three major problems with Thr3e. The first is what I refer to as "the adaptation factor." It simply doesn't make any sense and plays out like a serious version of a parody of the genre. Secondly, it's as derivative as films get. Finally, a Christian serial killer movie is a problematic project to take on. All three of these problems collide to make Thr3e one of the most disastrous films I've reviewed in a long time.
Before I get all kinds of hate mail from fans of Ted Dekker, I do realize that Thr3e is based on a book and is not a direct rip from Kauffman's idea in Adaptation. That said, it's odd that Dekker would write a book a year after the release of Adaptation, with almost the exact same idea and the same title. This is where the adaptation factor comes in. This idea was presented as a joke in Adaptation, and it was funny. It was funny because we could almost believe that some foolish screenwriter might think it was a good idea. It was funny because it was actually successful in the movie. Now, Thr3e is funny because someone actually did use this idea, thinking that it would work. It doesn't really matter whether Dekker stole the idea or not. Either way, it still doesn't make much sense. As soon as you stop to think about it, there are dozens of problems and issues that leap to mind. I'm not just talking about plot holes here. I'm talking about pain-inducing logical flaws. How is the killer such an expert with bombs? How did the killer have access to the workshop? The more I think about it, the worse it gets.
There also isn't much originality here. The title is a play on Se7en. The structure and cinematography is strangely similar to Saw. The female cop isn't unlike Agent Starling from Silence of the Lambs. By the time Keven and Samantha chase down the bus that's wired to explode, Thr3e has lost all credibility as a creative endeavor. To make matters worse, when the film does try to set itself apart, it just gets wacky. Kevin's aunt and uncle are so quirky and eccentric that neither character even makes sense. His aunt wears a tiara and refers to herself as the princess and his uncle wears a fez and acts like a dog. Why? We don't know, but it takes Thr3e on a serious dip into surrealism when these characters turn up. It's also a bit hard to take the film seriously when only one person dies at the hands of this vicious serial killer. Numerous bombs go off, but each one might as well be a water balloon for the damage it does. One even leaves clues written on paper a few feet away.
Dekker has also changed the notion at the core of the story. Here, the focus is on the nature of evil, rather than as a psychological exploration of the criminal mind. But this moral and religious exploration is limited to a brief seminary lesson at the opening of the film and a discussion at the very end. We don't get a taste of Kevin's thesis until after the conflict is over. Then, all we get is a preachy little explanation from his theology professor. The thing is, we don't really need these psychological and moral explanations for serial killers anymore. When Psycho came out in 1960, the audience needed a detailed explanation at the end. It's the only aspect of the film that hasn't aged well, and we don't need the same kind of explanation in 2007. I understand why Christian families want alternatives to the movies that are released in the secular media, but the only difference between Thr3e and its secular analogs is an absence of curse words. The morality at the core of the story is glossed over, almost as though the producers were embarrassed by it. If Fox Faith is going to be releasing Christian-friendly films, they need to step up to the plate and swing harder than this.
Since I'm reviewing a screener, I can't comment much on the transfer. It is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and the Dolby 5.1 surround track makes good use of the surrounds and LFE.
While Christian families with teenagers who need an alternative to gory, profanity-laden films will probably flock to Thr3e with feelings of relief, everyone else should know that there are so many reasons to stay away from this derivative stinker. It lacks the skill, polish, performances, script quality, and production values of a theatrical film. Everything in it has been done so much better countless times before. All it really comes with is the Donald Kaufman seal of approval.
Thr3e is guilty of crimes against reason and humanity.
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