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3 Strangers

By Alan Ng | February 8, 2022

Ricky Burchell’s inspirational drama, 3 Strangers, is an interesting mix of Hallmark Channel romance and a faith-based story. The writer/director also takes on the highly charged subject of race. I love it when filmmakers take risks like this and love it more when it works.

Tara Hayes plays Ragan, a salesperson about to hit the road for an important sales trip. If she can meet her numbers, her boss will consider her for a marketing executive position. Helping Ragan with her sales presentations is Tyrese (Alex Sauceman) and Vin (Joe Gates).

As the title implies, Ragan, Tyrese, and Vin are complete strangers and should not get along, based on their personalities. Acting as a narrative garnish, the story is set at a time of escalating racial rhetoric and demonstrations. When Ragan first meets Tyrese, she thinks he is going to assault her. Tyrese winds up punching Vin for a series of insensitive comments (yes, I’m sugar-coating this). Lastly, Vin has no respect for Ragan because he thinks she is a dumb blonde.

3 Strangers follows the group over a three-day business trip, and the trio eventually opens up about the struggles in their lives. Ragan is marginalized at her job because she is a woman. Tyrese is a talented artist, but his criminal record makes it impossible to find meaningful work. Vin was once a family man, but now he’s a jerk.

While Burchell brings in a faith-based element, I like that there are several lines that no faith-based film would ever cross. For example, religious films would never allow Vin to ask Ragan if her boobs are real. Ragan also hides a dark secret, one that is often taboo in faith films. The filmmaker also raises the stakes by including news clips about racial injustice and police shootings of unarmed black men. Doing so forces a lot of uncomfortable conversations to take place.

“…Ragan, Tyrese, and Vin are complete strangers and should not get along…”

Ricky Burchell is starting to amass quite an impressive indie film catalog. 3 Strangers definitely falls in the low-budget category, keeping alive the Roger Corman “shoot it and move on” spirit while managing to get all the scenes he needs to tell a cohesive story. Burchell also gets good emotional performances from the leads.

Visually, someone needs to get Burchell higher quality camera (which means money). Upgrading to higher definition footage and better color correction will elevate the final cut immensely. This improvement will also pull the drama out of DIY territory.

Considering the themes of 3 Strangers, I appreciate the inspirational nature of the story. Especially when addressing the subject of race in America, it’s easy to dig into identity politics. Instead, the screenplay builds bridges by encouraging us to look at the character of these people instead of their superficial identities.

The narrative is good but not perfect. Considering Vin’s past, I’m not sure how he became such a misogynistic racist. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism to keep people at arm’s length. Because police shootings were brought up so much, I would also like to have seen a genuinely blunt and uncomfortable conversation between Vin and Tyrese or between Ragan and Tyrese. My only other criticism is in the editing to make everything flow smoother.

3 Strangers is an excellent showpiece for Ricky Burchell. Though rough around the edges in story and presentation, Burchell shows the resourcefulness needed to become a true auteur. It’s strange to say, but mainstream storytellers fan the flames of discord. So instead, Burchell dares to take a positive approach to complex subjects in hopes of bringing some good.

3 Strangers is available on all major streaming platforms: AmazonVuduGoogle PlayVimeo.

3 Strangers (2022)

Directed and Written: Ricky Burchell

Starring: Tara Hayes, Alex Sauceman, Joe Gates, etc.

Movie score: 6.5/10

3 Strangers Image

"…an excellent showpiece for Ricky Burchell."

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