Western Film WTF: Big Money Rustlas (2010)

Sometimes you start little projects out of interest or curiosity — say, writing about offbeat Westerns. And you do so diligently, enjoying the process, and then, somehow, as you head down the road, you find yourself writing about the Insane Clown Posse.

I'm sure I am not alone in this. ICP has their fingers in a lot of pies, starting with a career in horrorcore rap and extending to professional wrestling and events planning. The phenomenon of ICP is almost impossible to explain, much less understand, if you are not part of their world. This is the world of Juggalos, the band's name for dedicated fans, and it comprises a full-fledged subculture that sometimes behaves like a vicious street gang and sometimes like a charitable organization, and has an inexplicable taste for the soft drink Faygo.

There is literally no way for an outsider to write about this subject without looking foolish, so I am going to skip a lot of it. But ICP made a Western, or, more properly, a parody of a Western titled "Big Money Rustlas," and I couldn't very well write about Western oddities and leave this film out.

So I do this knowing that I am missing a lot of context, including an enormous number of in-jokes, which the film seems to be full of. The film was made by ICP for Juggalos, and I am neither, but if you're looking for Western film WTF, this is it.

The film tells of a small Western town called Mud Bug, presumably because it was filmed at the Paramount Ranch and the hotel there is already called the Mud Bug hotel and it was cheaper to change the script than the sign. The town is ruled by a frontier boss, played by ICP member Violent J, who is surrounded by a hulking, black-clad enforcer and two obnoxious hype men.

The square off against a new sheriff, played by ICP member Shaggy 2 Dope. Both the gambler and the sheriff wear the band's signature clown makeup, and, seemingly at random, so do other characters in the film. The film is made with a slapdash brio, feeling a lot like an Ernest P. Worrell film if he was shooting for an R rating. The jokes are fast, cheap, dumb, and intermittently hilarious. There is also an undercurrent of meanness, including more than a few jokes at the expense of gay people.

The film is complicated, by accidentally so, I think. They cast actual Native Americans as Native Americans, which every Western should do, but then present them as primitive and cavemanlike, which no film should do. They introduce a Mexican character named Dirty Sanchez, which is not just a crude sex joke, but a lazy one, and he is played by a non-Hispanic, Mark Jury, and boo to both choices. But Jury is also an enormously charming actor who, but for a put-upon Mexican accent, steers clear of cliches about Mexicans and actually rebuff the ICP for some of their jokes.

So, as a comedy, audiences must content with wildly inconsistent and frequently questionable comic decisions, which I think we're not supposed to take seriously because they are meant as jokes, but I'm hesitant to accept that excuse, as I know humor's power to hurt.

Still, there is a manic inventiveness to the film that I respect. Our sheriff is repeatedly bushwacked by assassins, two of which are delirious steampunk inventions, one a pale man who fires lasers from his eyes, the other in a steam-powered wheelchair, one enormous and cankerous foot held forward like a battering ram, which it is used for.

The action is overseen by a drunk who sits beneath the city sign and changes the population number every time someone dies, then takes a sip from a jug to pay his regards, and otherwise acts as a kind of Greek chorus, and I like this element quite a lot. The role is played by wrestler Scott Hall, one of a number of cameos in the film, all odd: Former sitcom actor Dustin Diamond emerges from an exploded outhouse; Jimmie Walker from "Good Times" and statuesque movie actress Brigitte Nielsen appear for a hot second as concerned citizens; Tom Sizemore shows up as himself, angrily discussing his career.

There is not enough of that in Westerns. I'd love it if Westerns from now on included Tom Sizemore, jaw clenched, complaining that nobody ever remembers he had a cameo in "Penn & Teller Get Killed." You should belly up to any bar in a movie Western and find yourself next to Tom Sizemore, face red with rage, explaining that he was in two Quentin Tarantino films in two years, and yet nobody ever considers him a Tarantino actor.

I mean, we want the West to be wild, don't we?


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