Review by David Carter
Posted on 07 December 2012
Source Vivendi Entertainment DVD
Categories Rock Follies II
It is difficult to imagine a more unlikely pair of musical icons than Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, the macabre, monochrome clowns that comprise the Insane Clown Posse. A duo of Caucasian rappers who perform under the guise of “wicked clowns,” ICP’s music is filled with juvenile sexual references and cartoonish violence, both of which are described in such exacting and graphic detail as to preclude any sort of mainstream acceptance. Yet the group has found a sizable and very vocal fan base - termed “Juggalos” - drawn to ICP precisely because of their outsider status. The symbiotic relationship between ICP and the Juggalos has been the subject of both professional and amateur anthropological studies, but most ignore the fact that ICP is perhaps quantifiably the most capitulatory musical act in existence, crafting the entirety of their artistic output for maximum resonance with the Juggalos. Ably willing to exploit their success, the Insane Clown Posse has spawned head-to-toe apparel items, hosted a plethora of similar artists on their record label, and even conceived their own energy drink, Spazmatic.
Such success would eventually lead ICP to the world of cinema, in the form of 2001’s direct-to-video Big Money Hustlas, a neo-blaxploitation film which - like ICP’s music - contains elements of homage, parody, and unintentional racism. Again mirroring the precedent established by the Posse’s albums, Big Money Hustlas was a micro-budget affair yet a huge commercial success based almost exclusively on sales to their existing fans. Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope were reportedly disappointed with the film, however, and set out to recalibrate their creative incentives with a more generously budgeted sequel, 2010’s Big Money Rustlas, which repurposes the duo’s cult appeal in an American Western context.
The plots of both films are essentially identical: Gambler Big Baby Chips (Violent J) runs the frontier town of Mud Bug with an iron fist alongside his comic-relief henchmen, Dusty Poot and Raw Stank (ICP’s label mates Twiztid). The town’s ineffectual sheriff is powerless to oppose them but help comes to Mud Bug in the form of Sugar Wolf (Shaggy 2 Dope), who offers to become the new sheriff after learning that Chips murdered his father and his brothers. Borrowing a familiar trope from both westerns and kung fu cinema, Big Baby Chips sends three assassins after Sugar Wolf to test his mettle prior to confronting him on his own. They fail, leading to a high noon showdown between Chips and Wolf in the center of Mud Bug with good ultimately triumphing over evil.
Big Money Rustlas is a predictable collection of western tropes and ideas repurposed from Hustlas. But the film ignores every aspect of the Insane Clown Posse mythos, so carefully crafted by their albums and made religious by their fans. The clown motif is both a visual and narrative theme for the group, with the five concept albums released between 1992 and 2002 outlining their quasi-Christian religious philosophy via circus imagery and hyper-violence. These concepts - an integral part of the Juggalo lifestyle - are completely absent from Rustlas, as is the unique brand of slang used by the group, such as “ninja,” “clown love,” and their greeting “whoop whoop.” Furthermore, the instrumental soundtrack - which was not released by the group - consists exclusively of faux-western tunes and is far removed from the style of “horrorcore” rap for which ICP and their related acts are known. The fact that Rustlas utilizes none of these things makes it an anomaly in ICP’s body of work. This is the first endeavor by the pair not specifically crafted to appeal solely to their fan base and is in effect their most accessible work.
Despite its considerable potential for camp, Big Money Rustlas is a well-crafted and often entertaining film. The production value and direction compare more than favorably with films of equivalent budgets, but the film truly distinguishes itself in the performances. Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope are unexpectedly likable in their roles and aren’t afraid to allow themselves to be the butt of the joke at times. They also give the other actors ample screen time, be they guest stars or members of the “Psychopathic Family.” ICP’s proteges Twiztid threaten to steal the film away with their scenery chewing. The pair shouts every line regardless of context and takes pratfalls at every opportunity, but do so in a manner that feels improvisational rather than forced. Unfortunately the film’s many cameo appearances by the likes of Jason Mewes, Ron Jeremy, and Dustin Diamond are generally uninspired.
Big Money Rustlas is successful both as a comedy film and an introduction to the Insane Clown Posse without the calculatedly controversial aspects of their music or the steep learning curve of their complicated mythology. However, if the Posse’s goal was to reach a wider audience through the film, it is a failure. The film’s humor and tone are singularly juvenile and, while this is not unique to ICP, when coupled with their musical output it gives the impression that it is the extent of their creative potential. Rustlas still aims directly for ICP’s target demographic, but in a far less obvious way than their other works.
Taking their career as a whole, Big Money Rustlas would be the first indication of the mainstreaming of the Insane Clown Posse, evidenced by their more accessible recent albums and the viral video hit “Miracles.” Increasing references to the group in mainstream media outlets have been exclusively negative but are relished by the group regardless, and ICP seem to be aware that each insult thrown at them simultaneously raises their mainstream visibility and galvanizes the Juggalos who thrive on viewing themselves as social outsiders. Big Money Rustlas can therefore be seen as the Insane Clown Posse’s first honest attempt to cross over into the mainstream. Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope are willing to do anything to achieve that goal, even if it means playing the buffoon as they do here.
Big Money Rustlas2010
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