Big Money Rustlas
Film review by: Witney Seibold
The Insane Clown Posse is a baffling phenomenon. Based out of Detroit, they are a horrorcore rap group of white men who wear garish, frightening clown makeup, espouse the typical gangsta criminal lifestyle (often singing about rape and murder), and, as was recently revealed, are vitriolically anti-intellectual, and even claim to be Pentecostal Christians posing as popular entertainment. In this age of Internet trolls baiting other internet trolls, parodists parodying parodists, and irony running high, it’s difficult to tell if the ICP is being earnest when they sing a song like “Miracles,” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-agl0pOQfs) or if they’re playing some kind of extended, oblique prank on their audience.
Having sat through their straight-to-video feature film “Big Money Rustlas,” I like to think that they’re being entirely honest with their legions of fans (who, incidentally, call themselves Juggalos, which is, I have learned, a portmanteau of “juggler” and “gigolo.”), and are actually possessed of an earnest need to entertain. “Big Money Rustlas” is a comedy/western that espouses no serious philosophy other than dirty jokes and slapstick pratfalls. I am not a Juggalo (despite my love of Faygo’s Rock & Rye, the Juggalo’s sacramental beverage), so I can’t say for sure how much of the ICP’s general attitude makes it into their film. I can say that it was slapstick spoof that actually fares a heck of a lot better than a lot of the spoof films to have been released in the last decade (I’m looking at you Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer). It’s not as crass as you’d expect (although it’s plenty crass), and has some genuinely funny moments.
These funny moments are, however, colored by the surreal fact that you’re watching grown men in clown makeup (outside of a circus setting), clearly not actors, trying to make what is, ostensibly, a legitimate mainstream comedy. The ICP are rappers. You would think they would make a film about, well, rapping. But this is a musicians’ film (like “Christmas on Mars” before it) that features none of the headlining band’s music. If there’s no music, we’re left with the musicians’ attitudes. If there’s no attitude… well, we’re left with a bizarre comedy like “Big Money Rustlas.”
We open in the town of Mudbug, TX, where a friendly Cree Indian politely changes the population figure every time someone is shot. A bad guy has moved into town. This is Big Baby Chips (ICP frontman Violent J), a fat, ignorant weirdo, complete with clown makeup painted right over his scraggly beard. Chips rules Mudbug with an iron fist, and shakes down all possible people for money using his offensive wigga sidekicks Raw Stank and Dusty Poot (Jamie Madrox and Monoxide). I think the names are expected to get more comic mileage than they actually do. Chips is easy to figure out, I suppose; he’s a big-city criminal gangsta transposed into the Old West. I’m still with you there.
The Man with No Name in this story is Suagr Wolf (Shaggy 2 Dope, ICP’s other frontman), who has returned to Mudbug to find his mother. He is disgusted with the way his hometown has been taken over, and saddened by the fact that his momma has become the town’s best-known prostitute, and who lives in an outhouse. Don’t worry. The outhouse is much larger on the inside, and much more luxurious. Cindie Haynie plays Mama Wolf, and she bites into the role with so much talent and energy, that I half-suspected it was Cloris Leachman under that silly clown makeup. I hope Hayie goes onto better things.
Anyway Sugar Wolf sets about taking the position of town sheriff, and swears to clean up this little one-horse berg. He sends the previous sheriff – a mincing whiner played by Erwin Shepansky – to New York City to get him a bowl of chili. There’s a surreal scene when, on his quest, the sheriff is stopped in the middle of the desert by Tom Sizemore playing himself. The two of them have a discussion about Sizemore’s career. The only thing any viewer will be ale to think about it Sizemore’s actual career, and how it can lead from working with Spielberg to having a bit part in “Big Money Rustlas.” Good on him for working, but I wish he had bigger roles.
Anyway, Sugar Wolf gains the aid of a non-Mexican Mexican named (what else?) Dirty Sanchez (Mark Jury in brownface), who, surprisingly, stays in character. Dirty Sanchez is a throwback to those delightfully racist stereotypes that popped up on Mel Brooks’ films. It would work if it weren’t kind of offensive. Sugar Wolf also begins to attract the attention of other would-be heroes including the wimpy Bucky (Jason Mewes) and his sultry, soon-to-be-ladylove Tink (Bridget Powerz). Tink is a dwarf, and the film is, naturally, set up for us to giggle at the visual juxtaposition of the 5’10” Shaggy 2 Dope romancing a little person. The odd thing, though, is that Powerz’ height is not really made issue of, and she’s presented as a legitimate sex object, complete with freaky bedroom skills and sexy tattoos. In this regard, “Big Money Rustlas” is strangely progressive. That Tink ends up being a man in disguise is of little issue.
What else? Oh yeah, Big Baby Chips begins sending his assassins after Sugar Wolf, and the assassins are very much comic book style characters with their own gimmicks. There’s a ghost-like character called The Ghost (Boondox), and a man in a steam-powered wheelchair and a grossly enlarged foot called The Foot (2 Tuff Tony). Sugar Wolf, it turns out, ha s a superpower – he can slap people quickly and from across the room – and he uses his friends and his powers to dispatch of the assassins.
Letsee… there’s a butterchurn/masturbation joke. Big Baby Chips talks a lot about his “mwah-nay.” Each of the ICP bandmembers have cameos. You can tell which ones they are because they all have the clown facepaint. It’s still a surreal detail. Imagine if in “Heat” a few of the characters were incidentally wearing powdered wigs that were never commented on. The cognitive dissonance is comparable. There are also some weird guest appearances and cameos by Todd Bridges, Vanilla Ice, Ron Jeremy (as the Wolf family patron), Clay and Otis (from the Axe Murder Boys), and Brigittie Nielsen. We’re one shamed politician away from a reality show.
“Big Money Rustlas” was directed by Paul Andresen, who has made numerous music videos for Metallica and Van Halen, and has made a few other features of dubious note. That he is not closely knit to the Insane Clown Posse works, I think, to the film’s advantage. Rather than having an indulgent film for the fans (which is all a project like this is anyway), we have an earnest effort to make a real comedy. It’s weird as Hell, but it does have noble intentions. As a result, we have the skeleton of a real, funny comedy film, decorated with the oddball, reality-hacking, pseudo-pranksterish, anti-intellectual, thuddingly dumb images of the Insane Clown Posse.
If you can get past the images of wacky, deliberately anachronistic clown men in the Old West, or you can take a few shots of bourbon and roll with the irony, then I think you’ll get through “Big Money Rustlas” with a grin on your face. If you’re an ICP fan, well, it’s likely you’ve already seen it in between your abuse of Tila Tequila and late night Faygo runs. I can take or leave the ICP. Their movie, though, was an amusing afternoon.