Viking Night: I'm Gonna Git Ya Sucka
By Bruce Hall
October 29, 2014
It’s easy to make fun of something that’s already kind of a joke. What’s not so easy is to do it well. As an example, I’ll use something totally out of left field like...Blaxploitation movies. African American culture emerged from the 1960s with a sense of empowerment. Now that it was possible for black Americans to do things like get a decent job and vote without being murdered, a lot of people were eager to provide entertainment for this burgeoning social class and their newfound economic status. Making a quick buck usually means catering to the lowest common denominator, which means peddling a crappy product that people force themselves to enjoy because they think they can’t get the same deal anywhere else.
McDonald’s. Old Navy. Tyler Perry. It’s the Circle of Exploitation.
One way to make fun of something like that is to embrace it, and make it self-aware. It worked for (one of) the Airplane movies. It worked for Shaun of the Dead. And it works, intermittently, for I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. It’s the brainchild of entertainment patriarch Keenen Ivory Wayans, and at first, it’s hard to tell whether it’s a parody of or love letter to the long fabled Blaxploitation genre. Then, you realize it’s a little bit of both when you see Blaxploitation icons like Isaac Hayes, Jim Brown and Antonio Fargas in the cast.
Like a good satire should, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka takes a perfectly serviceable Eisenhower era story and turns it into something to be mocked. Strapping soldier Jack Spade (Keenen Ivory Wayans) returns from military service to move back in with his loving mother. But the community he left behind isn’t there anymore. Violent crime has exploded, and the streets are flowing with drugs. Absent the guiding hand of his older sibling, Spade’s younger brother got caught up with the wrong crowd and succumbed to an overdose. The drugs, the crime, and in Spade’s mind, his brother’s death - are all the responsibility of the ruthless crime boss known as Mr. Big (John Vernon).
Wait. Did I say drugs? I meant gold. Everyone’s addicted to gold chains. And Spade’s brother was named Junebug. And he overdosed on gold chains. It’s a metaphor, you see. And so is Mr. Big, who has figuratively enslaved the neighborhood youth with his abundantly cheap and readily available product. He even has some of the locals on his payroll, like his idiot money collectors Leonard and Willie (Damon Wayans and Kadeem Hardison) who terrorize Momma Spade (Ja’net Dubois) over money they gave Junebug. Jack starts asking questions about Mr. Big’s operation which, coincidentally, is right around the same time people start trying to kill him.
It wasn’t always like this. Once, a group of badass mofos cleaned up the city and took it straight to the man. They took out the CIA cocaine labs and the jive turkey smack peddlers who preyed on the kids. They fought back against Whitey’s corrupt political machine and took back the streets. But believe me, there was always time for the ladies. One of them even knew kung fu, for some reason. Hammer (Isaac Hayes), Slammer (Jim Brown), Flyguy (Antonio Fargas) and Kung Fu Joe (Steve James) were like a Black Justice League, layin’ down the funk and cleanin’ up the junk, all over the city.
Unfortunately, they’ve all retired. But Jack gets it in his head that the only way to take down Mr. Big is to get the band back together. Of course, with any group of unlikely heroes, one of whom is a keyboard player, old divisions still exist, and certain old flames have yet to be extinguished. Putting together a band isn’t half as hard as keeping one together, and Mr. Big isn’t about to sit around waiting to get kung fu’d to death. In case you can’t tell, some shit’s about to go down.
I’m Gonna Git You Sucka does this for 88 minutes that feel a lot longer but in a mostly good way. Within the framework of a Blaxploitation send-up, the movie takes its shots at almost every aspect of African American culture, be it in the context of civil rights, commitment to family, irrational love of gold chains, the funny way black people from the suburbs (allegedly) sound, or how you never, ever mess with Mom. Some of the jokes work - you haven’t lived until you’ve worn six inch platform shoes with goldfish in them. On the other hand, one of my biggest issues with this kind of film is knowing when to cut away from a gag. You can tell which jokes Keenan liked the best, because the movie lingers on them a little too long, which mutes the humor.
Speaking of Keenen, while the man is by no means a good actor and his directing skills are unremarkable, he excels at building sandboxes and then letting the right people loose in them. I’m Gonna Git You Sucka is a funny idea (or at least it was at the time), and it’s populated with the right people to pull it off. All the old guys are actually pretty good together, and Leonard and Willie probably should have had their own TV show. My primary regrets are the timing issues I mentioned, and the liberal use of orchestra hits in the soundtrack (hint: never use them), I’m Gonna Git You Sucka has aged a hell of a lot better than you’d expect. Also, I wish Jim Carrey had somehow been in this movie.
All in all, not a bad way to spend an hour and a half of your life.