Sunday, June 6, 2010

Big Money Hustlas (2000)

It's possible that I may have been predisposed to dislike Big Money Hustlas, the 2000 tribute to 1970s exploitation films created and starring rap group the Insane Clown Posse. It's not solely because of the quality of their juvenile, often offensively inane music - including the recent internet sensation "Miracles", which attained cult-like status solely because of its misguided awfulness. It's not because of their "infomercial" for their 2009 "Gathering Of The Juggalos" event which my wife became semi-obsessed with, watching it repeatedly in disbelief that such an odd collection of rather pathetic individuals could come together in some sort of profane Lollapalooza. It's not because of the absolutely ridiculous subculture of ICP fandom - known as Juggalos - who represent some of the saddest dredges of humanity. It's not because of faygo. Or neden-holes. Or Shangri-la.

It's because somewhere - deep down - I can see a teenage version of myself possibly digging some of what makes up the Juggalo (and *sigh* Juggalette) lifestyle. It combines carnivals, sugary soft drinks, raunchy content and a love for "extreme" pro-wrestling and trashy horror movies that would have really appealed to a 14 year old version of me. However, I can't imagine even the impressionable youth I once was taking this stuff very seriously, and certainly I would have grown out of this fandom before I reached anything approaching the age of reason. And I would be embarrassed that I ever enjoyed any of this, and do my best not to mention it ever again. But with time and emotional distance perhaps I could return to the Insane Clown Posse, and view the whole awful business with a certain amount of nostalgia.

Or perhaps not.

So, anyway. I don't like the Insane Clown Posse, or their fans, or their music. But - and this is a big butt - I actually had some hopes for Big Money Hustlas going into it. I can get behind a comical tribute to exploitation films. It has an appearance by the late Rudy Ray Moore reprising his classic Dolemite persona from Dolemite and The Human Tornado. And the ICP have shown a willingness in the past to not take themselves too seriously (obviously not counting that "Miracles" video). So, this could at least have its moments, right?


Shaggy 2 Dope has the lead as Sugar Bear, a hero cop from San Francisco whodresses in 70s gear and talks - irritatingly - in rhyme. He's brought to New York City to stop the crime spree of Big Baby Sweets (Violent J), who - along with his cronies - is flooding the streets with drugs, bootleg merchandise and prostitution. Oh, and as he'll remind us dozens of times throughout, he's also interested in getting his "motherfucking money". Sugar Bear teams up with the timid Officer Harry Cox (Harland Williams), and soon he's taking a notch out of Sweet's profits. But after a failed attempt to bring the criminals in, his obese stripper girlfriend Missy becomes a target. It takes the power of Dolemite to finally motivate Sugar Bear to take on Sweets in a fight to the death.

There's very little to interest or amuse even the most desperate fan of genre films in Big Money Hustlas. It's painfully slow, consistently irritating, and does almost nothing with the meager resources it has. It looks bad, sounds bad, and features piss-poor actors spitting out horrendous dialogue. The whole things feels like a particularly lame Mad TV sketch stretched over 90 minutes, with the sort of constant winking at the camera which makes any reasonable audience member question why they are wasting their time with this nonsense. Despite my earlier comments, I can't imagine a time when I was juvenile enough to enjoy such vapid, obvious, and lazy attempts at humor.

And obvious and lazy are really the key words here. Some of the supporting cast - most notably career goofball Harland Williams and Jerky Boy/Family Guy regular John G. Brennan - seem to be giving it the old college try, but are consistently sunk by dialogue which mistakes creative swearing for comedy. From what I've read, i'm sure that I will be accused of not understanding "Juggalo Humor". However, for those not familiar with this style of humor, let me explain it to you. It involves fat people eating pizza, cops eating doughnuts, and terrible musicians in clown make-up calling people "motherfuckos". It's a couple of notches down from your average Troma production, which is already a few notches down from funny.

I mentioned earlier that the film squanders meager resources, but I want to clarify that the budget - reported to be between $250-300 thousand - did manage to provide solid production credits. It was shot on 35mm film, and though the direction (by John Cafiero) is pedestrian, it's also professional. Sound and lighting all are at the level of your average straight-to-video production. Behind the scenes issues aside (and this is elaborated on in the commentary), there was potential with this level of creative freedom to do something unique, so it actually registers as a disappointment that everyone involved were content to create something so safe and boring and mediocre.

And blame has to be placed solely on Shaggy 2 Dope and - particularly - Violent J, since they conned their obsessive fans into paying for and watching what is essentially a circle jerk. It says a lot that despite (according to the commentary) writing every word of the screenplay, Violent J still chose to improvise his own  dialogue. His scenes are unbearable, featuring constant mugging and gawking at the camera to the point where it's difficult not to feel slightly embarrassed for him. Shaggy fairs better, though seems to lack any of the charisma he shows on stage when put in front of a camera. Despite being a supposed bad-ass, he's constantly being dominated by the more polished performers around him.

The Island Records DVD release of Big Money Hustlas presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and - as mentioned - it looks perfectly average. Original music is by ICP music producer Mike E. Clark and it's solid, if unspectacular. There's also an appearance of the theme song (performed by Rudy Ray Moore) from The Human Tornado which ends up being one of the film's highlights. That isn't saying much.

We're treated to a feature length commentary by Violent J, Rude Boy and Alex which is quite soul-destroying to sit through.Violent J moans about not being able to sleep with the extras, about how the crew hated them because the band were partying in their tour bus while they were working long hours (what an asshole!), and how the crew almost mutinied when he tried to fire a "bitch" that brought her dog to the set. The other two just agree with everything J says, even if it's completely repeating - word for word - a story that they just finished telling. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that this was ten years ago, and hopefully they've toned down a bit on the misogyny, homophobia, and general jackassery on display here. 

We also get a discography (oh joy!), and videos for the songs "Tilt-A-Whirl" and their cover of the Sly Fox song "Let's Go All The Way". Both videos are significantly better than this movie.

Worthless. Brainless. Humorless. A fucking chore to sit through, and a sad indictment of the Insane Clown Posse and their fans. Big Money Hustlas is a sad curiosity and is about as entertaining as dental surgery - and only slightly less painful. Stick to laughing at their absurd youtube clips and stay far away for this abortion of a film unless you're looking to cause yourself grievous mental harm. 


J.T. said...

I have to say that I had high hopes when I saw the pic of Rudy Ray Moore, but your scathing review has dashed them.

I owe you for suffering through this one so I didn't have to.

I will have to review a film so horrible or visually nauseating that I have to use your awesome Jesus Christ Turn It Off tag.

It might take sitting through Mermaid In A Manhole again and I am not sure I can do that.

Anonymous said...

Big Money Hustlas is hilarious. Great comedy!

Doug Tilley said...