In late 1988, two years before he would change comedy forever with his TV sketch series In Living Color, writer/director Keenen Ivory Wayans debuted I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, his feature-length homage to the blaxploitation genre of the 1970s.
The film, which featured Bernie Casey, Isaac Hayes, Jim Brown, and other stalwart actors associated with the genre, consisted of various direct tributes to Shaft, Superfly and other stalwarts of that era, while also layering on funny all-purpose gags- some of which land, while others don’t.
Beyond the blaxploitation homage, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka was obviously very heavily influenced by Airplane!, and the other gag-a-minute parodies that were popular in the latter half of the 1980s. The film and The Naked Gun, in fact, were released within a couple of weeks of each other in December 1988. The moment when Wayans’ Jack Spade is strutting down the street to a version of “Theme from Shaft,” and we realize he’s being trailed by a full band, is the sort of gag that would have fit seamlessly into one of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker movies.
The film is set in “Any Ghetto, U.S.A.,” and hero Jack Spade (Wayans) returns home following the death of his brother, because he “O.G.’d,” with gold chains standing in for drugs both in that scene and throughout the entirety of the plot.
Jack then decides to take revenge against white local crime boss Mr. Big (John Vernon), in the process enlisting the help of local legend John Slade (Bernie Casey, the former football player who went on to star in numerous blaxploitation films), along with characters played by Isaac Hayes (Hammer), Jim Brown (Slammer) and Antonio Fargas (Flyguy.)
Also on board are numerous members of Wayans’ extended comedy family, including Damon, Marlon, Shawn, Kim and Nadia, as well as multiple cast members on the contemporaneous TV series A Different World (Dawnn Lewis and Kadeem Hardison.)
I’m Gonna Git You Sucka may be a homage to ’70s blaxploitation, but in many ways, you can tell it was made 15 years later. For one thing, most of the interstitial music is more associated with the sort of New Jack Swing music that was popular at the time that the movie was made.
One thing that’s ironic is that the two most famous scenes in the film- the “one rib” bit with a very young Chris Rock and the “Pimp of the Year” monologue – have nothing to do with the main plot.
There is, however, some stuff here that doesn’t hold up quite so well, starting with, well, this entire scene, which seems to take the premise of the nightclub scene from another 1988 comedy, Coming to America, and push the “bitches be crazy” factor even further:
This film was hilarious to me when I watched it as a teenager, despite knowing absolutely nothing of the genre it was parodying. Rewatching it now, it’s striking how loving the film’s treatment is of the blaxploitation tradition, even though a surprising percentage of the gags don’t quite land.
Keenen Ivory Wayans would go on to direct the first two movies in the Scary Movie genre, which provided a much less witty version of genre parody. It also didn’t help that the main object of Scary Movie’s parodies, the Scream franchise, was itself meant to be satirical and self-referential.
It’s been said that I’m Gonna Git You Sucka was Eddie Murphy’s idea, as Wayans had written on his concert film Eddie Murphy Raw, and Murphy would, of course, make his own tribute to the genre more than 30 years later with Dolemite is My Name. While certainly not approaching the material with the same objectives in mind, Murphy’s 2019 film was actually a more effective homage to the blaxploitation genre- as was another film, Louis C.K.’s absurdist Pootie Tang, from 2001.
I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, while far from the most laugh-out-loud funny movie of the 1980s, has a secure legacy as a film that paid tribute to a specific genre from the decade previous, while also firmly grounding itself in its own era.