Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, March 9, 2017


When I was in middle school, the word “pimp” entered my youthful vernacular. To my teenage ears, “pimp” was both a verb – to make something more outrageous or fashionable – and an adjective – cool, swanky, superior in slickness. As a kid, I didn't really understand that a “pimp” is a man who manipulates, abuses, and steals from victimized women. Don't just blame my youthful ignorance. “Pimp” has somehow become a pop culture catchphrase, short term for a man surrounded by money, wealth, fancy clothes, and sexually submissive women. This perception can be directly traced back to movies like “The Mack.” A blaxploitation cult classic that has been frequently referenced in hip-hop and TV, the film is by far the most romanticized take on the sex trade I've ever seen.

After a five year stint in prison, Goldie is back in his old neighborhood. Eager to make a new life for himself, his friends, and his mother, Goldie looks for ways to make money. He turns to pimping and finds great success at the trade. Soon, Goldie is the number one mack in his area, bringing in the dollars and the honies. His black nationalist brother, meanwhile, is disgusted by his behavior, believing that the black community needs to get away from the drug and sex trade. Goldie is also harassed by a pair of racist white cops, eager to frame him for any crime, and a white mobster named Fat Man, who wants him selling drugs again.

Here's something funny about “The Mack.” In real life, most pimps get the prostitutes in their employ hooked on drugs, to more easily control them. In this movie, the pimps and the drug dealers are directly opposed to each other! The women who sell themselves for Goldie happily work for him. They share an apartment, where they put on fashion shows for each other. They trade tips on how to easily hide money in their skimpy outfits. In an especially bizarre sequence, Goldie takes would-be hookers to a planetarium. He shows them footage of the planet and stars, while informing them what an honor is it to be his hoes. There's even a macking competition in the middle of the movie, where the area's most stylish, successful pimp is given an honorary title. There's an almost cult-like, religious awe around the career of pimp in “The Mack.” Which makes it totally divorced from reality but weirdly captivating nevertheless.

“The Mack” is a pretty funny movie. Even on purpose, sometimes! The film's sense of humor veers towards the kooky and bizarre. Every year, the pimps of the area have a gathering. They play baseball with their hookers, eat barbecue, and tell each other jokes. This same sequence is also punctuated with footage of a little girl attempting to drink from a water fountain. In one scene, Goldie continually hassles the swishy henchmen of Fat Man, the scene concluding with the messenger tossed into a garbage can. Despite being the villains, the racist cops are undoubtedly the film's comic relief. One delivers an odd, rambling monologue about elephants and giraffes to a plus-sized prostitute. The other comments that he ran faster before he quit smoking. This bizarre sense of humor even extends to the film's more serious moments, such as when an accordion becomes an unexpected murder weapon.

For all its jokes and gags, “The Mack” is also attempting to be a gritty crime picture. Characters talk extremely frankly about the drug and sex trade, peppering their conversations with speech that can only be considered offensive today. After Goldie turns his back on Fat Man, the mobster kills one of his girl's with a drug overdose. This causes Goldie to seek bloody revenge. About midway through, Goldie's mother is murdered by someone, leading to another violent episode. That one is especially explicit, as Goldie and his sidekick torture the man they believe responsible before blowing him up with dynamite! While most of the attempts to be a serious movie are ill-conceived, early scenes in the film devoted to characters talking have a laid-back, grounded reality to them. These crime movie elements contrast badly with the light-hearted comedy, making “The Mack” an even more unusual viewing experience.

You know another thing that's weird about “The Mack?” It co-stars Richard Pryor but doesn't cast him as the comic relief. While Pryor gets a few energetic speeches to himself, his comedic stylings are mostly restrained by the script. Max Julien, when playing a normal person in the early scenes, gives a pretty good performance. As soon as Goldie becomes the Mack, Julien's formally grounded acting leaves reality and becomes cartoonish preening. Most of “The Mack” is crudely assembled. The editing is rough. The script rambles on, passing sloppily through various plot points, causing the film to stretch on for nearly two hours. It's a low budget, borderline inept affair. The story is inherently sexist and the script goes the extra mile to degrade most of its female characters.

As far as content goes, “The Mack” may be the ultimate blaxploitation movie. Pretty much every cliché you associate with the genre shows up, as the full checklist below indicates. There's even an extremely random appearance by a gospel preacher. And did I mention the extra funky soundtrack, which features more walkachus then you can shake a pimp cane at? The mixture of gritty gangland violence and super broad comedy frequently blindsides the audience. But you can't say the movie isn't entertaining. In fact, in-between the frequent gaffs, utterly strange screenplay, and entirely dated attitudes, “The Mack” is usually an extremely amusing experience. [7/10]

[X] Afros or Sideburns
[X] Brothels or Pimps
[X] Churches or Pastors
[X] Funky Soundtrack
[X] 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

1 comment:

Monty Park said...

So we know the other definitions for "pimp." But what exactly is the meaning of "pimps don't commit suicide?"