3:15 the Moment of Truth (1986)

37% – Critics
false% – Audience

3:15 the Moment of Truth Storyline

Violent crime is routine. Organized drug trade runs rampant in the face of powerless authority. And a vicious street gang holds dominion with a savage reign of terror. Welcome to Lincoln High! Here “the Cobras” rule the school and everyone in it. Everyone except for Jeff Hanna. Once the most feared member of the Cobras, Hanna got sick of fighting and got out of the gang for good. But now The Cobras have brutalized his newfound girlfriend and threatened to kill him for his disloyalty. So it’s time for one final fight. It’s time for one more showdown after the school day ends. Its time for someone to die. Its 3:15—

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3:15 the Moment of Truth Movie Reviews

“Nothing is more important than pride”

Violence. Drugs. Crumbling turf. Vicious gangs; Charles Bronson ala in Paul Kersey mode would have a field day, but hey this isn’t a “Death Wish” film. “3:15” easily ranks up there with the likes of “Class of 1984”, “Savage Streets” and “The New Kids” of this 80s wave of violent school gang outings with no-bars hold revenge at its core. Bestowing an outstanding cast; Adam Baldwin (in a perfectly pitched performance) leads the way as Jeff Hanna who use to be in the ruthless street gang “The Cobras”, but then he decides to go straight after a confrontation with the leader Cinco (a venomous Danny De La Paz). A year has past, but there’s still ill-feeling there. This finally erupts when Cinco blames Hanna for a drug raid at the school which was orchestrated by the principal (a scheming Rene Auberjonois) and led by detective Moran (a neatly sardonic Ed Lauter). Despite the threats Hanna is happy to look the other way, until they threaten to assault his girlfriend (the delightful Deborah Foreman). Then he knows he must take up the offer to finally settle the score.

The plot plays out like a urban western as you have one man finding himself stuck in the middle of something there’s no way out of, while without choice taking on the unbelievable odds by standing up, as everyone else just watches on. Standard mechanisms, but on this occasion its very well done, right down to its classic final showdown. Strangely is had me thinking of a very similar film that came out a year later “The Principal”, which in the film’s climatic showdown between the principal (an excellent James Belushi) and some punks drummed up some striking similarities in how things turn out.

You might call it b-grade, trashy exploitation with a decent looking budget… and you might be right. However its context it isn’t trying to simply exploit despite its harsh, brutal details (although it might lie in the shadows to the previously mentioned films’ mean-spirited vibe). The pulpy story is a little more thoughtful in its actions and depictions, where the characters have more weight which makes it all the more harrowing and gripping when it unfolds. These are characters trying to prove something (as image becomes an important factor) and just what lengths would they go to do so. Like the frightening expression on Foreman’s character’s face when she sees Hanna aggressively implode on one of the gang members. That’s not saying it doesn’t go over-the-top, but these dramatics only enhance the intensity. Director Larry Gross workably keeps the adrenaline levels high, even when it’s not trying to be bitingly rough and gusty. It’s gritty, edgy but competently staged with a pounding soundtrack to back it up. There are some other interesting faces showing up in the likes of Mario Van Peebles, Wayne Crawford, Scott McGinnis, Gina Gershon and Wings Hauser (who gets even less screen time than the visible boom mike).

A very cool and enjoyable 80’s teen gang romp

“Class of 1984” meets “High Noon” and subsequently gets transposed to the blighted, crime-ridden East Los Angeles ghetto area in this really solid and effective teen gang opus. A vicious street gang called the Cobras holds a reign of terror over Lincoln High School. Stand-up, no-nonsense tough guy Jeff Hanna (a commanding and believable performance by “My Bodyguard” ‘s hulking Adam Baldwin) quits the Cobras and decides he wants to live a normal, peaceful life. Alas, Jeff incurs the formidable wrath of savage, vengeful Cobra leader Cinco (a perfectly vile Danny De La Paz) when he refuses to take a dive for Cinco during a surprise police drug bust. So Cinco vows that he’s gonna clean Jeff’s clock but good come 3:15 after school, clinching the odds that Jeff will definitely show up for this lethal rumble by beating up Jeff’s sweet newfound girlfriend Sherry (an endearing turn by the lovely, cuddly Deborah Foreman).

Granted, the plot provided by Sam Bernard and Michael Jacobs’ blunt, no-frills, just cover all the necessary bases and nothing more script doesn’t offer any fresh insights or novel twists on a timeworn Western-style big showdown premise. However, Larry Gross’ precise, straightforward direction, Gary Chang’s neatly percolating score, Misha Suslov’s slick, smoothly gliding cinematography, a refreshing lack of pretense, and a thrilling finale with Jeff opening up a king-sized dose of raw, bloody hurting on the Cobras more than compensates for the dearth of originality. Plus, the supporting cast is totally up to snuff: “Benson” ‘s Rene Auberjonois as the school’s manipulative Machiavellian principal, Ed Lauter as a cynical, world-weary cop, Wings Hauser as Sherry’s overprotective jerk dad, Mario Van Peebles as a black gang leader, 80’s horny teen regular Scott McGinnis in one of his standard smart-mouthed wiseguy roles, Joseph Brutsman as Jeff’s loyal nerdy pal Marvin, and future “Showgirls” hottie Gina Gershon as a snarly Cobra gang moll. All in all, this flick’s certainly punchy and violent enough to make the grade as a satisfying item.

Average for the genre.

Adam Baldwin of “My Bodyguard” fame is front and centre as Jeff Hanna, a former teen gang member who goes straight, taking his studies more seriously and having some success as a player on the school basketball team. But his old associate Cinco (Danny De La Paz, “Miracle Mile”) continues bearing a lethal grudge against him. When the scheming principal (an effectively weaselly Rene Auberjonois, ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’) and a sardonic, cynical cop (an amusing Ed Lauter of “Death Wish 3”) orchestrate a massive drug bust, Cinco decides to lay all the blame at Jeffs’ feet, and he and all of Jeffs’ former buddies are determined to punish him. They intend to have a big fight at the title time of day.

“3:15 the Moment of Truth” has its moments, but in truth it might have had more with a better script and better direction. As it is, it’s watchable enough, but mostly what it does is under-utilize a solid cast that’s been seen to greater advantage in other things. There’s violence aplenty without much gore, and overall this offers some fun for devotees of gang films and stories of crime & violence in schools. At least the pacing is sufficient enough to have this move along without any meandering; the film wraps up in a tidy 86 minutes. The characters don’t have a lot of depth, but they’re set up adequately; for one thing, you do dislike the antagonists enough that you wait for the inevitable moment of their comeuppance.

Baldwin does a decent job in the lead, while the luminous Deborah Foreman (“April Fool’s Day”) is once again irresistible as his concerned girlfriend. De La Paz is not a particularly menacing presence physically, but he gives a good performance nonetheless. A steady parade of familiar faces turn up in roles big and small: Scott McGinnis (“Joysticks”), Bradford Bancroft (“Bachelor Party”), Wayne Crawford (who’d co-written the popular 80s romance “Valley Girl” that co-starred Foreman), Lori Eastside (“Get Crazy”), Panchito Gomez (“Borderline”), Mario Van Peebles (“Exterminator 2”), future big time screenwriter / producer Dean Devlin (“Independence Day”), John Doe (“Road House”), Gina Gershon (“Bound”), and future director Rusty Cundieff (“Fear of a Black Hat”).

Worth it for a decent finale where Jeff employs a “divide and conquer” strategy to defeat Cinco and pals, and for the very enjoyable soundtrack.

Six out of 10.