Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

BLAXPLOITATION MONTH: I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)

By 1988, a little over a decade had passed since the heydays of the blaxploitation genre. That was just enough time for the once-upon-a-time hip style to become a source of nostalgia. And when a legitimate film movement becomes something people can say “Hey, remember that?” about, it becomes ripe for parody. Years before the “Scary Movie” series he launched helped destroy the parody movie, and even before "In Living Color," Keneen Ivory Wayans wrote, directed, and starred in an affectionately silly homage to seventies black cinema. “I'm Gonna Git You Sucka” would be well received by black audiences and generally ignored by everyone else, making the film an almost instant cult classic. For better or worst, it would launch the Wayan Brothers' career, helping make the family a household name.

Kids are dying on the streets. They are falling victim to the latest addictive substance: Gold chains, piling so many on their bodies that it kills them. When Jack Spades returns to his home town from the military, he discovers that his little brother has fallen victim to the same condition. He's determined to stop the man responsible for flooding neighborhoods with gold chains, a crime lord named Mr. Big. To achieve this gold, Spade teams up with a trio of retired black heroes. Slade, Hammer, and Slammer are experienced tough guys. But they haven't been very busy since the seventies, making the mission a little harder then it ordinarily would've been.

“I'm Gonna Git You Sucka” isn't exactly a pitch perfect spoof of blaxploitation. It's steeped in the very different culture of the eighties, its urban characters being decorated with boomboxes, bandanas, and wallet chains. Despite this, it's clear that Wayans is familiar with the troupes of the genre. There are several direct homages. Slade is followed around by a band, who play his theme song. Antonio Fargas, of course, plays a former pimp. He recalls an absurd pimping pageant, a direct parody of “The Mack.” Slade's motivation – avenging the death of a younger sibling – could've been pulled from any number of films. One of the best jokes involves a character named Kung-Fu Joe. An obvious riff on Black Belt Jones, he announces his attacks, flips racist cops over his shoulders, and brings his bare fists to a gun fight. For that matter, a trio of black heroes fighting a racist villain recalls “Three the Hard Way.” My favorite line in the film has Spade justifying his status as a black action hero by pointing out that he used to be a football player.

The callbacks to classic soul cinema are good for a laugh. Having said that, the best gags in “I'm Gonna Git You Sucka” tend to be original bits of absurd silliness. In contrast to the hyper macho heroes of the seventies, Jack Spade is a nerd. His military service was as a secretary. He used to get beat up by dwarfs, which is displayed in a bar populated by guys with giant hats. His mother is a hyper-capable bad-ass, even if she sometimes turns into a male stunt double. Spade isn't much for seducing ladies, though he eventually gets laid. After picking up an attractive lady in the bar, she begins to remove her body parts! There's a number of meta gags, involving the director's sister and which actors have appeared in exploitation films. Yet absolutely my favorite gag in the movie features a young Chris Rock. He enters Hammer and Slammer's restaurant and attempts to purchase a single rib and a sip of Coke. If the rest of the movie was as funny as this one scene, “I'm Gonna Git You Sucka” would be non-stop hilarity.

Honestly, the best attribute of “I'm Gonna Git You Sucka” is its cast. It's pretty easy to guess that Wayans didn't get every actor he wanted. There's a character named “Hammer” who somehow isn't played by Fred Williamson. Instead, Isaac Hayes steps into the part. Kung-Fu Joe was clearly written with Jim Kelly in mind. Steve James, a martial arts star in his own right, got the part instead. If the use of the “Shaft” theme is any indication, Bernie Casey's part of Slade was originally intended for Richard Roundtree. Only Jim Brown, as Slammer, is playing the part clearly written for him. Luckily, all these guys are really funny. Hayes has a blast spitting absurd dialogue, most of which is about murder. James has fun clowning it up. Casey generates several good laughs about his sexual conquests. Brown, meanwhile, is perfectly straight-faced. A bit involving a broken window or a sore foot makes great use of Brown's serious demeanor. I wish he would do more comedy.

“I'm Gonna Git You Sucka”  isn't the gut buster it wants to be. Even during its funniest moments, Wayans' film isn't up to the best work of Mel Brooks or the Zucker Brothers. Instead, it mostly generates good-natured chuckles. But that's okay. The film's goofy streak is charming enough to entertain, keeping the viewer smiling for enough of its 88 minutes. It is certainly clear that the Wayans Brothers were genuine fans of the blaxploitation genre. The film would spawn a TV pilot, “Slammer, Hammer, and Slade,” but the show never went to series. In his future films, Wayans would take a similar approach to other genres, to varying degrees of success. Even with its modest quality, “I'm Gonna Git You Sucka” might be its director's best movie. [7/10]

[X] Afros or Sideburns
[X] Brothels or Pimps
[X] Churches or Pastors
[X] Funky Soundtrack
[] Homophobic Caricatures
[X] Inner-City Setting
[X] Night Club Act
[X] Plot Involving Drugs or Organized Crime
[X] Racist Authority Figures
[X] Sticking It to the Man
[X] Sweet Love Makin'
[X] Use of Street Slang

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