Sunday, March 3, 2013

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka - 1988

"I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" - 1988
Dir. by Keenan Ivory Wayans - 1 hr. 28 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Even though I've seen (and enjoyed) "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" before, I was prepared to hate it this time around.  Why is that?  Maybe it's because of the "Scary Movie" franchise, maybe I just figured the humor hadn't aged particularly well.  Or maybe it's because writer/director/star Keenan Ivory Wayans has all but disappeared as an actor over the last decade or so.  Also, probably because I liked "Black Dynamite" so much, and feel that it probably mined this same territory a bit better (and a bit cleverer).  But dagnabit, "Sucka" ended up winning me over again.

Jack Spade (Wayans) returns home from the military when he finds out his brother has OG'd (over gold - death by too many dookie chains).  Mother Ma Bell (Ja'Net DuBois) and widow Cheryl (Dawnn Lewis) are grieving, and to top that are being threatened by a pair of Mr. Big's thugs (Damon Wayans and Kadeem Hardison) over a debt Slade's brother owed.  Jack decides that something must be done about this, and tracks down a retired black hero, John Slade (Bernie Casey) to take on Mr. Big (John Vernon).  John brings in his crew, Hammer (Isaac Hayes), Slammer (Jim Brown), and Kung-Fu Joe (Steve James), and they start things by making business more difficult for Big.

There are reasons to admire what Wayans is doing here, but I'll get to that later.  None of that matters if you create a bad, unfunny, unwatchable movie, which certainly isn't the case.  It's possible that a lot of people have never seen Keenan Ivory Wayans in front of a camera, so I'd describe his humor as what would happen if you mashed together Richard Pryor (in terms of physical acting) with the "Airplane!" crew.  The plot here is mainly a coat-hanger on which Wayans can spin asides and random jokes off of.  Unfortunately, the first act of the film isn't very funny (there's a lot of establishing going on, at the expense of the humor), but when "Sucka" takes off, it takes off.  For me, what broke the dam was a short interview between a news reporter played by David Alan Grier, where he was interviewing John Slade.  Slade mentions something about the streets, and DAG starts talking about how he wasn't raised around black folks, and ends up doing a "Dancing in the Dark" Springsteen dance.

And the scene that kept me rolling in laughter was where Ma Bell dresses down Jack in front of Cheryl, whom he's trying to impress.  Jack decides to right a couple of childhood wrongs involving a woman and a family of midgets in desperation.  When Cheryl asks him what that would prove, Jack says, "It proves I can beat a woman and a family of midgets!"  Baby steps, Jack, baby steps.  This style of humor has been seen in the films with the younger members of the Wayans brothers (Keenan's had his hands in a lot of those movies behind the camera), and describing the jokes that come would probably take longer than it would just to watch the scenes in question.  But the details do accumulate, jab after jab, and add up to a pretty funny movie.  By the time you see Flyguy's aquarium platforms or the bar that requires ridiculously over-sized hats (in which gun-wielding midgets hide), you'll probably have already been chuckling for twenty minutes straight.

As for why this is probably a fairly important film, take a look around 1988 and see how many other black directors were working in any capacity.  Wayans pulled off the trifecta here, writing, directing, and starring in his own film.  Just going down the cast, you can see some of the actors who worked on "In Living Color" show up in smaller roles; David Alan Grier, a ton of Wayans' siblings, even Chris Rock pops up in one of his earliest film appearances to buy a rib and get some soda poured into his hand.  And going backwards, getting Huggy Bear, Shaft, and Jim Brown to be in your film parodying blacksploitation films is no mean feat. It's basically Pam Grier away from having everyone you could think of from that genre featured.  Part of this is the fragmented nature of Wayan's humor, but watching "Sucka," you're going to see a lot of familiar faces.

"I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" isn't a great movie, but it's a good one.  It's kind of an outlier; people that were big before and people who would end up being big are present, and Wayans built a career off of this sort of thing with "In Living Color" and the first two "Scary Movie" films, but looking back, it's hard to believe that it got made at all.  The material that it was parodying was basically fifteen to twenty years old at the time; it would be like trying to get someone to pay for a bunch of comedians to make a "Pulp Fiction" or "Forrest Gump" parody today, except only if "Pulp Fiction" or "Gump" hadn't really made much money to begin with. Maybe the cultural life-span is different now, but you'd be taking on material that isn't old enough to be considered "classic," and isn't current enough for teenagers to have any familiarity with.  All I can guess is that someone thought Wayans was funny (which he is), and that the three million dollar budget would be inconsequential in the long run (it quadrupled that in it's theatrical run).  The result is an odd artifact; the somewhat unknown beginnings of the Wayans brothers comedy career.

3 / 5 - TV

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