Teen films ruled the box office in the 80’s. Most of the movies were comedies, like the John Hughes films and their various imitators. But every now and then there was an attempt at a hard-hitting teen drama. In today’s film, the teen angst of John Hughes’ world is traded for gangs and knife fights…in 1986’s “3:15.”
The film begins with a gang of high school thugs, called the Cobras, causing trouble on the LA streets. One night, they decide to beat up some unwelcome visitors on their turf. The gang’s leader, Cinco (Danny De La Paz) nearly beats one guy to death. Well, that’s the last straw for Jeff Hannah (Adam Baldwin) and he decides to leave the gang. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with Cinco and the others
A year later, Jeff is a new man. He’s doing well in school, plays on the basketball team, and has landed the lovely Sherry (Deborah Foreman) as his girlfriend. But Cinco and the other Cobras are still up to no good. They’ve turned their school into a graffiti soaked battleground, much to the chagrin of the principal (Rene Auberjonois). A normal day for the Cobras involves going around and collecting money from the other students, then sliding envelopes full of drugs into lockers while their peers wait in their classes. But one day, the principal teams with a police officer (Ed Lauter) to bust the Cobras. As Cinco tries to make his escape, he encounters Jeff in the locker room and tries to pass the drugs off on him. But Jeff doesn’t help out his old pal and Cinco is hauled off to jail with some of the other Cobras
Unfortunately, the police won’t be able to hold the gang for long and rumors begin to fly around the campus that Cinco intends on making Jeff pay once he gets out. To make matters worse, the principal and the police want Jeff to work with them to stop the Cobras, which would make him an enemy of half the school. Jeff is unfazed, though, even after a warning from Whisperer (Mario Van Peebles), the sympathetic leader of another gang. Warnings also come from Jeff’s former gang-girl squeeze Lora (Wendy Barry), which causes Sherry to become suspicious that Jeff is sweet on his old girl again. But the other gang girlfriends, including young Gina Gershon, decide to stop all this and beat Lora to a pulp. They then go after Sherry, landing her in the hospital.
Now, Cinco is out of prison and declares that the Cobras will have their revenge after school…at 3:15. The whole school comes out to watch. After what happened to Sherry, Jeff is now determined to end this once and for all!
Unlike many teen films of the 80’s, this doesn’t take place in a suburban wonderland. This is a rough city high school with graffiti everywhere. Or at least that’s what we’re supposed to believe. The amount of tagging on these walls is overkill in every way shape and form, almost as if the set decorators were desperate to convince us we were in the inner city. The cast isn’t that convincing either. Let’s put it this way, there are way too many 27 year old high school seniors in this flick.
Though it’s not all that believable, the story is somewhat enjoyable. I was intrigued by how the premise is actually somewhat similar to that of one my favorite forgotten teen comedies from the 80’s, “Three O’Clock High.” The looming showdown between the good kid and the bad kid is pretty effective. There is some degree of raising tension as the time of reckoning approaches. Oddly enough, though, the comedy “Three O’Clock High” does a better job of continuing to raise the tension as the film progresses. Of course, that film has a great villain, and this film does not, at least not in the traditional sense. Cinco and his gang are a bunch of wannabes, but their girlfriends, on the other hand, are the ones you don’t want to mess with. The most interesting aspect of the film ends up being the female contingent of the gang and their personal vendetta against Deborah Foreman’s character. I dare say, the film would’ve been much better had it been about a bad girl turned good threatened by her old gang. I did like Deborah Foreman in her role, but think she would’ve been even better in this scenario.
Though the list of improvements that could be made to “3:15” is larger than the amount of graffiti in the film, it is still worth a look. It is definitely a different take on the 80’s teen flick