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Review: ‘Leprechaun in the Hood’: Help! I Still Don’t Know Why I’m Watching Every ‘Leprechaun’ Movie

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Review: 'Leprechaun in the Hood': Help! I Still Don't Know Why I'm Watching Every 'Leprechaun' Movie

I have to start by issuing an apology for the way my last review ended. If you’ve been following my slow descent into madness through viewing the entirety of the Leprechaun franchise, you’ll recall that in my review for Leprechaun 4: In Space, I accidentally referred to the fifth movie as Leprechaun in “Da” Hood. I apologize. This movie is ACTUALLY called Leprechaun in “The” Hood. My mistake in using a more colloquial spelling of “the” belied my previously-held expectations for this movie. I was wrong. It’s “The” not “Da,” and that was an oversight on my part.

This screw up is telling of the way I went into this movie. I was being too dismissive before it even started. I, for whatever reason, was expecting this franchise, helmed (so far) exclusively by white people, to target and exploit a black audience. I thought that the diminishing returns of Leprechaun 4: In Space led the powers behind the franchise to seek out specifically African American viewers to grow their market. I was expecting, basically, a blaxploitation Leprechaun movie. I expected to be -at least a little bit- offended.

I was wrong, and I was right. Both at the same time. Sorta-kinda.

The movie is directed by a white dude, based on stories by another white dude, with another white dude credited on the screenplay. However! In my research I learned that this movie wasn’t completely a white dude-helmed flick. Doug Hall is given both “screenplay by” and “story by” credits. After looking into Mr. Hall’s iMDB page, I was thrilled to learn that this is a writer who went on to rack up credits on ABC’s Grown-ish and Mixed-ish, as well as Netflix’s #BlackAF. So that means there actually was black representation within the writers’ room. Does this absolve Leprechaun 5 of its list of socially-questionable issues? Nope! However, it does make the movie easier to watch, because now we know it’s not exclusively white dudes writing about black, inner-city characters using black, inner-city slang. When characters use African-American Vernacular English, it’s important that the dialogue is written by black people.

Leprechaun in the Hood 2000

But also, this shit is wildly transphobic, bro. I understand that I am viewing a 2000 movie with a 2021 perspective, but STILL! It is difficult to justify some of the decisions these writers made. Two completely separate plot points center around very, very transphobic situations. Again, I understand I am looking through today’s lens at a twenty-one year old movie, but jeez. It is cringe-worthy at best, and very hurtful at worst. There were times during this movie where I was embarrassed as a viewer, like somebody might pop in and be like “Bill, what are you watching?!”

It’s clear that the writers’ life experience limited their point of view regarding creating a transgendered character. While I understand nobody is coming into these movies expecting nuance and fully fleshed-out characters, the team really should have done better here. The ‘Fontaine Rivera’ character feels incredibly one-note, and without being given very much at all to do, it feels like her sexuality and identity were created to simply serve as a punch line. Again, I get it, this is a goofy movie from 21 years ago, but the depiction feels mean and inhumane. I think that’s my biggest complaint. Whereas most of the characters have at least a facsimile of humanity to them, Fontaine isn’t really depicted as a person.

Let’s set aside the movie’s problems for at least a moment. Because guess what? ICE-T IS IN THE HOUSE! He is this movie’s saving grace. This is the same year Ice started his work as NYPD Detective Odafin Tutuola on Law and Order: SVU. His star wattage is instantly palpable. This is in no way meant to disparage this movie’s other stars, but Ice-T is just in a different class completely. He’s just so magnetic and so watchable on screen. You can’t take your eyes off the guy.

Leprechaun in the Hood Ice-T

Ice-T’s character, Mack Daddy O’Nassis, is introduced in the story’s prologue. Here, he’s mostly a ‘70s-era blaxploitation caricature of a pimp, complete with afro and gold chain. And Ice is right at home in the role; allegedly, the future rapper, while stationed in Hawaii in the 70s, did a little pimping himself!

I’d like to take a second to remind everybody that Ice-T is a veteran of the United States Army, and should be saluted and thanked for his service not just to his country, but to the Leprechaun franchise. Thank you, Ice. You are a hero.

Anyhow, Mack Daddy O’Nassis and an associate find all these riches and gold surrounding a stone Leprechaun. They take everything, including the charmed necklace that’s keeping the Leprechaun frozen in time! It’s when they remove the necklace that the Leprechaun is freed and, well, there he goes a-killin’ again. There’s even a particularly tasteless reference to MLK Jr.’s oft-quoted “Free at last,” speech. It left my jaw hanging! Luckily, in the ensuing scuffle, the necklace goes up in the air and lands back on the Leprechaun, causing him to freeze again in a petrified statue of his own likeness. But don’t fret. That’s not the only time this Leprechaun gets “stone”d in this movie! Oh brother I need to write about some other movies.

Leprechaun in the Hood Mack Daddy O’Nassis

Ok, so after all that, Ice-T/Mack Daddy O’Nassis makes off with a golden flute. The timeline jumps ahead some twenty years, and now Mack Daddy is the rap king of the radio. He’s got hits! And, seemingly, it’s all thanks to this golden flute. I should note that, although this is the fifth movie in this series, there is not a single mention of a magical golden flute in any of the preceding movies. This series has a very weird and loose mythology. Things will be introduced in one movie, only to be lost in the next. There’s little-to-no consistent lore. And in this one? Buddy… There’s a magical golden flute that makes you rap real good.

So of course that’s the focus of this movie. There are other rappers who can’t make it happen for themselves, and so they target Mack Daddy O’Nassis’ riches. The story’s main characters, our trio of Postmaster P, Stray Bullet and Butch, licking their wounds after being turned down for a record deal, break into Mack Daddy’s place. Because as the old adage goes: “If a violent and well-armed rap mogul, played by Ice-T, turns you down for a record deal, break into his house to steal all his stuff.” And because the “stuff” in question includes the charmed necklace keeping the Leprechaun frozen in time as a statue, the evil lil’ bastard is released and even MORE chaos ensues. But the fellas escape with flute in-hand! The good news is they are now budding rap superstars. The bad news is that now they have both the Leprechaun AND Mack Daddy O’Nassis coming after them.

For all this movie’s misgivings, for all it’s transgressions, I’ll give it this: It ends with the Leprechaun rapping. So, you know, can it all be so terrible? No this does not excuse Leprechaun 5’s myriad issues surrounding identity and race. Yes, however, it is an absolute bop.

Leprechaun in the Hood Rap

Rap along kids!

“Lep in the hood, up to no good.

Lep in the hood, up to no good.”

Why am I doing this? What went wrong in my life that I’ve taken it upon myself to write earnestly about the Leprechaun franchise? These are the questions I think about every time I watch one of these things. It’s almost surreal watching these movies in the sober light of day. What fresh hell hath these creators wrought? Can we really dip back into the same inkwell and go BACK to the hood? I’ve still yet to have a single reader reach out like “Hey I also have watched this movie and I wanted to connect with you about them.” I think that’s what this might all be about, at least in some small way. I wanted to connect with people. Would it be through shared interest or shared disdain? I think “love/hate” is my only way to describe my relationship to these movies. It’s both. It’s yin. It’s yang. It’s everything all at once. Some terrible, brilliant, calamitous fray into the world of long-running horror franchises.

Please, I beg of you, if you’ve joined me for any part of this journey: Reach out to me. Write to me on Twitter, @billreick. Send me an email at BillReick@gmail.com. Please, I need some meaning out of all this, lest I be but one lonely rider traversing this pale plane. I want to know what you like about these movies. I want to know what you dislike about these movies. Most of all, I want some concrete proof that this hasn’t all been some nightmarish hallucination that I alone have experienced. Please, dear reader, let me know I’m not alone. Or is all that I have seen or seem but a dream within a dream? A sad strange cosmic tango for one? I… Enjoy the Leprechaun films. I might even love them. Because for me they hold the potential to bond with another by saying “Holy shit, did that actually happen?” Please, O void, return my call and speak to me.

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