Sunny blaxploitation spoof, with enough good feelings and funny bits to smooth over the rough spots...not to mention enough unperturbed racial humor and “macroaggressions” to send even the hardiest college kid crying straight for his or her safe zone. Kino Lorber’s Studio Classics arm has released — on Blu-ray — I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA, the 1988 comedy from United Artists. Written and directed by star Keenen Ivory Wayans, and co-starring a (near) perfect cast including Bernie Casey, Jim Brown, Antonio Fargas, Ja’net DuBois, John Verson, Steve James, Damon Wayans, Kadeem Hardison, Clu Gulager, Clarence Williams III, David Alan Grier, and yes, Eve Plumb, I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA affectionately parodies most of 1970s-era blaxploitation’s florid conventions, delivering a steady stream of chuckles (and quite a few genuine belly laughs) for fans of iconic titles like SHAFT, SLAUGHTER and SUPER FLY. Only a couple of vintage extras are included for this release, but there’s a very nice Blu full HD 1920 x 1080p 1.85:1 transfer to temp double dippers.
Any Ghetto, U.S.A., and another brother, June Bug Spade (Bobby Mardis) silenced by O.G.ing (“over gold-ing”) on gold chains — chains supplied by evil Mr. Big (John Vernon, POINT BLANK, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE), the man who runs the town’s vice rackets. Returning home for his brother’s funeral, Army serviceman and mama’s boy Jack Spade (Keenen Ivory Wayans, SCARY MOVIE, TV’s IN LIVING COLOR) discovers that June Bug owed Mr. Big five large for his gold chain addiction. Since June Bug sold drugs under addle-pated gunsels Leonard (Damon Wayans, THE LAST BOY SCOUT, MAJOR PAYNE) and Willie (Kadeem Hardison, VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, THE 6TH MAN), they now owe the 5K to Mr. Big — a debt they think they can satisfy if they can manage to kidnap June Bug’s wife, Cheryl (Dawnn Lewis, TV’s A DIFFERENT WORLD, HANGIN’ WITH MR. COOPER), giving her to Mr. Big, who will then put her to work on the streets. Jack first tries to get help from the neighborhood revolutionary black supremist, Kalinga (Clarence Williams III, TV’s THE MOD SQUAD, HALF-BAKED), but Kalinga’s former army now all have jobs with the government (“Yes, whitey is something else,” in response to this duplicitous outrage, is one of the movie’s best jokes). Instead, Jack finds assistance with retired crime fighter John Slade (Bernie Casey, DR. BLACK, MR. HYDE, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN), a former lover of Jack’s ass-kicking mother, “Ma” Bell Spade (Ja’net DuBois, TV’s GOOD TIMES, FIVE ON THE BLACK HAND SIDE). Slade also enlists aged badasses Hammer (Isaac Hayes, TRUCK TURNER, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK) and Slammer (Jim Brown, ICE STATION ZEBRA, THE DIRTY DOZEN), along with “Kung Fu Joe” (Steve James — AMERICAN NINJA, THE EXTERMINATOR — in an absolutely dead-on, paralyzingly accurate send-up of Jim Kelly) and former “Pimp of the Year” Flyguy (Antonio Fargas, TV’s STARSKY AND HUTCH, ACROSS 110TH STREET), to help the kid take down Mr. Big.
Even though United Artists took a (admittedly small) chance back in 1988 on relatively unproven performer Keenen Ivory Wayans when they let him write, direct, and star in his own low, low budget movie, I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA (the final tab was reportedly well below $3 million), they still hedged their bets when it came time to release it. Prior to this assignment, Wayans was only known in Hollywood for co-scripting Robert Townsend’s critical hit, HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE (made for a paltry $100,000, it returned over $5 million to The Samuel Goldwyn Company) and Eddie Murphy’s stand-up concert movie, RAW, which at one time was the most commercially successful concert movie of all time. So it was still quite a coup for a basic unknown to get such a sweet production deal. Whether UA was unsure of the movie’s quality once it was in the can, or they were leery of its urban appeal (read: nervous its racial humor was going to offend somebody), I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA was given a fairly low theatre count of 135 screens the weekend of December 16th, 1988 (that weekend, the similarly-designed spoof, THE NAKED GUN: FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD! was on almost 2000 screens). Eventually UA bumped the number up to a little over 300 screens by January — still a low number — with the movie eventually scoring some $6 million dollars at the box office by year’s end. Its critical reception was mixed, with many critics of the day reviewing not so much the movie itself, but rather their own comfort level with Wayans’ free way of skewering aspects of black culture. Many of those same top-tier critics had had trouble with the blaxploitation genre itself almost twenty years before, so a movie making fun of a genre accused of reinforcing negative black stereotypes was probably an unpalatable notion to them from the start (always humorless Roger Ebert wrote a review of I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA that not only showed he didn’t pay too close attention to the movie — at least he sat through this one, one assumes — but that also tacked on a smug, snooty, unasked-for lecture about what is and isn’t acceptable subject matter for a comedy. According to him).
Ironically, one of the most refreshing aspects of I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA, seen almost thirty years later, is the movie’s racial insensitivity; indeed, a complete lack of any of today’s humorless, suffocating P.C. sensibility. Keenen Ivory Wayans is specifically spoofing the blaxploitation genre in I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA, but there’s no question he’s also laughing at aspects of black culture — without apology. Back then, this open disregard for anyone’s feelings may have been questioned by a few nervous critics, but no one took to the streets over it; today, it feels positively brave, considering what would happen to a moviemaker now if they attempted the racial jokes Wayans crafts without concern. When Wayans shows the first annual “Youth Gang Competition” here, he stages one event as a foot race, with black youths carrying TV sets on their shoulders as they run away from pursuing Doberman pincers (another announced event is “Senior Citizen Bugging”). Obviously he knew why that was funny back in 1988 (or else why did he write it?), and so did we the audience...and the loudly laughing audience this reviewer saw I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA with, was largely black. Sadly today, you’d be taking a very real risk with your social life and indeed your employment prospects even discussing such a scene at the office water cooler, let alone defending it (and yet “uptight whitey” or “redneck buffoon” stereotyping in our popular culture doesn’t seem to be a problem with anyone).
Wayans’ genuine affection for the blaxploitation genre is another saving grace in I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA. While admittedly for this reviewer the absence of blaxploitation icons like Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, and personal favorite Robert Hooks (the brilliant TROUBLE MAN) can’t help but make I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA somehow feel just a bit... light, it is quite satisfying seeing HIT MAN’S Bernie Casey putting on some SHAFT-ian leathers, SLAUGHTER’S BIG RIP-OFF’s Jim Brown hoist that impossibly long Magnum, and FOXY BROWN’s Antonio Fargas reciting his hilarious “Bitch Better Have My Money” poem at the Pimp of the Year contest. Some cynics may think nostalgia is a cheap emotion, but it’s a potent one regardless, and just seeing these charismatic actors back in the blaxploitation framework goes a long way towards making I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA work. How well it works, though, compared to other modern cartoony, joke-a-minute spoofs like BLAZING SADDLES, AIRPLANE!, and THE NAKED GUN, is also down to Wayans, who does triple duty here: scripting, directing and acting. Where I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA falters is in its pacing and overall build — common problem areas for first time directors (especially when limited by budget) and relatively novice screenwriters (as for his acting, there’s little he can do with his own blah character). His individual scenes usually pay off, with Wayans occasionally showing downright flair in executing his funny ideas (the diner fight with DuBois’ obvious stunt double is particularly smart). It’s the fashioning and transitioning of these separate scenes and ideas into a cohesive whole that can seem choppy at times (although to be fair: how slapdash did many blaxploitation movies turn out?).
In the end, though, the only
thing a comedy has to do is make a viewer laugh on a regular basis, and I’M
GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA easily accomplishes that. Wayans has a gift for the straight-faced
absurd mixed with Three Stooges physical effects, and the result is almost always
funny. In the movie’s opening, when Clu Gulager (too bad his part is so
small) whips back the sheet over June Bug and says the gold chain-covered corpse
looks like a “f*cking statue,” before a bunch of cops pose with
it for goofy snaps, we know precisely where Wayans’ head is — and
we like it. Memorable sight gags (Brown’s grotesque bunion is priceless)
compliment small, farcical throwaway bits like Wayans’ carefully preserved
boyhood room (flies buzzing around the filth, with a bird skeleton still in
its cage), and Isaac Hayes suddenly— and badly — busting out to
“Grazin’ in the Grass.” Notable one-shot walk-ons pepper the
movie. Chris Rock gets big laughs with his cheapskate ribs customer (negotiating
a $1 soda, he squints, “F*ck the cup, just pour it in my hand for a dime,”);
David Allan Grier kills with his smarmy oreo news reporter (“In
the immortal words of our Negro poet, Don Cornelius, ‘Peace...and soul,’”);
while Clarence Williams III is deeply, deeply funny as he beams in ecstasy as
his white son (named what else, “Whitey”) reads his disparaging
school paper on “poor white trash” Abraham Lincoln (as funny a scene
as anything you’ll see in AIRPLANE!). No one is spared Wayans’ good-natured
ribbing, from overemphatic black singers (he lets his real-life sister Kim ham
it up delightfully) and Vietnam vets (when asked how he lost an eye, Hawthorne
James’ scary combat vet “One Eyed” Sam cheerfully admits,
“F*cking around in the office!”), to hopelessly stuck-in-the-past
pimps. Flyguy’s re-emergence on the streets after serving too many years
in prison, adorned in the most outrageous 1970s yellow pimp suit you ever saw,
is the movie’s comedic highlight. Perfectly played by a proud-then-increasingly
nervous Fargas, the scene shows Wayans’s underlying genial, kind nature:
we laugh at Fargas’ outfit and then his studied disinterest for the street
people laughing at his outdated clothing...before his genuinely hurt feelings
make us empathize with the silly-but-human character. The scene is an apt metaphor
for I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA as a whole: we laugh at the spoofing, but
our nostalgic regard for the blaxploitation genre gives the seemingly mean-spirited
humor some heart.
I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA’s full HD 1920x1080p 1.85:1 widescreen transfer looks quite good, considering the limitations of the original materials. While the image is sharp, with fine detail levels optimal in brighter-lit scenes, many of the nighttime sequences go just a bit murky, with grain (and brief, occasional aliasing and noise) elevated, too, as expected. Skin tones accurately vary, yet overall colors seem a bit blah...but then again this reviewer doesn’t remember the movie exactly popping off the screen back in ’88. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo track is clean as a whistle here, with no distortion, crisp dialogue and decent lows. While a Wayans commentary track would have been a very nice selling point for this disc (or even a copy of I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA’s unsuccessful 1990 TV pilot, “Hammer, Slammer, & Slade,” with Brown and Hayes returning), fans will have to settle for some minor vintage bonuses. A “Making of” featurette from 1988, running 5:33, doesn’t look too different than the “Additional Interviews and B-rolls,” at 4:32, also produced in 1988. Cast and crew, on set, discuss the movie’s production and their impressions during filming. Not too terribly illuminating, nor frankly entertaining. Original trailers for I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA, John Candy’s comedy DELIRIOUS, Tim Matheson’s sex romp UP THE CREEK, and Isaac Hayes’ TRUCK TURNER, are also included. (Paul Mavis)
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