THE BEGINNING

Andrew Anderson watched Insane Clown Posse’s terrible movie so you never have to

icp

BIG MONEY HUSTLAS (2000)
The duo of Shaggy 2 Cool and Violent J have been making music together since the early ’90s, mixing rap, rock and comedy into a lucrative blend that has won them millions of fans and made them just as many dollars. They perform in clown makeup, in a style called horrorcore that is supposed to conjure up the haunting qualities of carnival and cabaret. However, their song titles don’t quite match up to that semi-cerebral billing (they have one called ‘I Stuck Her With My Wang,’ for example).

What the band is best known for though is their fans, called Juggalos. Self-branded outsiders, Juggalos are a loosely knit group with a shared interest in rap, violence, and crappy face paint. They’re utterly devoted to Shaggy 2 Cool and Violent J, meaning that Insane Clown Posse’s albums go platinum with predictable regularity. It also means that, back in 2000, the duo had a willing audience for their first movie outing Big Money Hustlas.

Before we go any further I need to admit to an error: so far this film series has covered bands playing themselves on screen, and I thought Big Money Hustlas was the same (after all, they are wearing their full ICP makeup in the artwork). However, ICP aren’t actually playing themselves but characters: Shaggy 2 Cool stars as Sugar Bear, while Violent J (who also wrote the screenplay) is Big Baby.

But while this film doesn’t quite fit this column’s usual mould, the characters ICP play are so closely tied in with their real personas that it really makes no difference. In other words: I wasn’t wrong after all.

The film is an homage to Blaxploitation films of the ’70s like Shaft, Super Fly and Dolemite (although I’m not sure ICP would use the word homage), with added ICP comedy (by which I mean both Shaggy and Violent J doing their best Blaxploitation accents whilst endlessly repeating the word ‘bitch’.)

Set in New York, the film is essentially a prolonged showdown between super villain Big Baby and the police, with Sugar Bear as the Shaft-style cool cop. Big Baby runs various rackets in the town and has the local feds in his back pocket. Distressed by this state of affairs, The Chief (John G. Brennan), decides to call in Sugar Bear, a cop so good that he, “once got stabbed in the balls, dick and ass and still took down the criminal.”

Sugar Bear – a mix of Huggy Bear, Shaft and Dolemite – arrives on the scene and, after delivering a series of jibes about the Chief’s weight, proceeds to pummel every bad guy in his path. While this might sound like harmless fun, there is a slight problem in that Shaggy 2 Cool is a white guy pretending to be a black guy while wearing black and white face paint. This strikes me as a tad thoughtless, a word that sums up the whole film rather well.

As a character, Big Baby isn’t much better. In fact, Violent J is exactly what I imagine Cartman from South Park would be like if he was made of flesh and had his humour removed. His hammed-up performance is incredibly tiring to watch for more than a minute or two at a time. Furthermore, he insists on breaking the fourth wall repeatedly to comment on the film’s low budget and poor acting so much that you find yourself shouting, “yes, I get it, this film isn’t very good, please stop constantly reminding me.”

About halfway in, a love sequence ensues between Sugar Bear and Misty, played by Sindee Williams. Misty is very overweight, and her size is the source of many jokes (like when she is lured into a trap by following a trail of burgers and pizza) and the butt of much name-calling. ICP’s unsavoury attitude isn’t limited to obese women, though – all of the women in the film are treated with equal disdain. It doesn’t seem to be done deliberately – it just feels like ICP don’t know any better, and that it hasn’t occurred to them that it might not be okay to portray women only as sex objects (who then get shot).

The problem with reviewing this film in serious terms is that ICP would claim it is a joke, and not meant to be taken seriously. As Violent J points out each time he looks into the camera this is a low budget film made for fun, not a piece of art designed for critical dissection. And just because I don’t find it funny doesn’t mean it is inherently bad. To that I say this: whichever way you cut it, white guys doing bad impressions of Blaxploitation characters while abusing women and wearing clown makeup just isn’t okay. Especially when your audience is as large and dedicated as those of ICP.

Which brings me back to the Juggalos. From what I have seen and read it seems like they are a pretty good-hearted bunch. Yes, they have an affinity for wrestling, terrible rap music and eradicating their own brain cells with a potent mixture of marijuana, cheap booze and laughing gas, but they also value friendship, kindness and acceptance. In many ways (especially the being high bit) they are rather like hippies, only with spider legs instead of flowers in their hair. If you don’t believe me then watch Sean Dunne’s American Juggalo, which captures the thoughts and feelings of people attending The Gathering, an annual Juggalo Festival. It is surprisingly heart warming while at the same time being crushingly sad. They certainly deserve better than the thoughtless, tasteless and brutally irritating film that Shaggy 2 Cool and Violent J are offering with Big Money Hustlas.

Note: for those not put off by the above there is also a sequel called Big Money Rustlas. And yes, they are dressed as cowboys.

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