RULE #3 refers to the triad of regulations a con man must live by, and the film is based on the life and easy times of a career criminal.
Southwestern con man Travis West (Mitchell Cox), who has just slithered out of the grasp of master fraud Scott Randall (Bill Falcon), persuades his vivacious consort Jennifer (Marcia Swayze) to fool a police surveillance team who are on the wrong track about his next scam. (Rule #1: Never trust
anyone). Travis plans to fleece the Skylar family, who have just inherited $25 million. His first move is to hire Jennifer to romance Bob Skylar (Jerry Rector), tennis expert David Compton (Brandon Miller) to finesse Becky Skylar (Kathy Lambert), and computer whiz Danielle Reese (Dena Ridgley) to
bewitch Bill Skylar (Jody Montgomery). While setting up this new con, Travis toys with a scheme to outsmart his old nemesis, Randall. While Travis keeps cops and racketeers at bay, Jennifer not only falls for Bob but also figures out a way she and her crime partners can profit in a shopping mall
development Bob is spearheading. (Rule #2: never mix business with pleasure).
Cutting Travis out of the deal, Jennifer persuades her previous pals to split a $500,000 purchase price for 100 acres of desert wilderness. What they don't realize is that they're buying worthless land from a dummy corporation Travis owns. In fact, the Skylar family doesn't exist; Travis always
intended to play his partners for suckers. Not content with clipping the wings of his peers, Travis dupes Randall into believing he's hired a real hit man, O'Hara (Richard Allen), to rub out Travis. (Rule #3: Don't believe everything you see, read or, hear). After staging his own execution and
leaving incriminating evidence for the Reno police, Travis pins the hit on Randall. Outclassed by Travis, Randall now has to pay through the nose to clear himself of a crime that never happened. Though he had a long and colorful career, the film tells us in conclusion, Travis West was never
convicted of any crime.
RULE #3 uses West's swindles as the basis for a shifting-sands suspense film whose only real fault is that we never get any sense of what makes the master manipulator tick. At first, we root for Travis to outfox his many pursuers--who come from both sides of the law. But as his cruel
machinations are revealed, Travis takes his place on the backroads with America's most scandalous double-crossers. In many films about flim-flammers--BLOOD SIMPLE (1984) and RED ROCK WEST (1993) come immediately to mind--misguided passion or fate backs the characters into a rattlesnake den. But in
RULE #3, Travis is a born snake; he chooses to make his living among the reptiles. For this kind of celebration of wickedness to succeed, the rotter has to be someone very compelling. Placidly handsome Mitchell Cox should come across as the Elmer Gantry of sales, but his patter wouldn't sell the
Brooklyn Bridge to a halfwit. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, nudity, adult situations.)
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