Saturday, March 28, 2015

Leprechaun Retrospective: Leprechaun Back 2 Tha Hood (2003)

Leprechaun Back 2 Tha Hood
Director: Steven Ayromlooi
Starring: Warwick Davis, Tangi Miller, Laz Alonso, Page Kennedy, Sticky Fingaz
Rated: R

What's up, ninjas?

Like before, the hood wasn't in the cards early on into production.  This sixth film was supposed to be Leprechaun Spring Break.  Basically a bunch of good looking, shallow, rich college kids were going to find the pot of gold and go on the spring break of their lives, only to have the Leprechaun on their tail.  I'm sure we would have had some Leprechaun in shade, maybe a green speedo and him running the obligatory wet t-shirt contest.  Alas, Lionsgate was on their first sole venture with the franchise, having fully absorbed it from Trimark (Last time was a joint venture) and got cold feet on doing something different.  Sales of the previous film rejuvenated and really picked up.  At the last minute they decided to go back to the hood setting, thus ending each film dropping the Leprechaun into some new environment.
While I much would have preferred the Leprechaun move on to someplace new because that's sort of the appeal of the franchise, I'm actually satisfied with this entry.  This Hood film is actually pretty much what I was wanting from the first film.  The film has a younger, I think hispanic, director and it just plays more genuine than the last time around.  The styles, lingo, music and everything surrounding the element in the film works and is actually pretty on point with where the hip hop and "hood' scene was at in a pop culture sort of way in 2003.  Honestly, you could skip the last one and just treat this as THE Hood film as it doesn't hearken back to anything in the last movie.  And the Leprechaun once again plays by pretty much this movie's rules.
Warwick Davis also feels a bit more lively in this one too.  In this entry, the Leprechaun gets a new costume.  Its actually a pretty solid one too, going for a more dingier, darker appeal.  The little guy is also rid of amulets, like the whistle in the last one, or the necklace with the big gem on it like 3 and the first Hood movie.  The Leprechaun also feels much more present in the film start to finish and fills it with some genuine good laughs and horror deviancy.  I hate to compare it to the second film because that one is so bad, but this one most resembles that in its sort of fairy tale background for 'ol Lep.  The film does feature a really cool animated intro that doesn't overdo a backstory and sets up just right.  This all sort of comes together for Warwick Davis.  Its his last turn in the role and I think he goes out just fine and in one of his better performances and movies.
Oddly, this movie has a story and characters that really actually,!  No, this isn't some great coming of age teen drama, but we have enough here to give our characters motivation, purpose, stakes and consequences.  Like the last movie, they have lives that aren't just "stock character needs to escape the Leprechaun".  Its actually funny watching 20 somethings act like 20 somethings when they run into a load of cash.  Adds a bit of another layer of humor to the film.  The last movie felt like it wanted (And could have been) this dull movie about some really bad rappers trying to make it big.  This film meshes the youth storyline with that of Leprechaun action quite well and features some good payoffs.
The kills still aren't anything to impress Freddy or Jason, but they are a step up this time.  It should be said though, that they don't really have the money to be doing elaborate, extremely graphic deaths, so they try and make ends meet.  They try to compensate in the humor department for their lack of a gore team.  But, here we get a guy that gets stabbed by a bong which is pretty cool, and he does take out some police officers and a gang.  A gang which features Onyx's (And Save The Last Dance's) Sticky Fingaz to keep the obligatory rap artist in the cast going.  Apparently Sticky Fingaz role wasn't in the film, but they were so "impressed" with his audition they wrote him in a character.  
The humor here is much better than the last film.  I found myself with some genuine laughs, including one that got a big one out of me, moreso than snickering at a few groaners.  That big laugh comes in the form of the most perfect encapsulation of a Leprechaun Hood movie.  If you could show one scene that would prove to someone how good one of these movies could be, its the one with Leprechaun hanging on under the car.  In order to try and shake him off, our lead turns on the hydraulic lift and bounces the car like a late 90s/early 2000s rap video.  To me, that was really freakin' hilarious and well worth watching the movie for.
This brings us to the end of the original Leprechaun canon and the curtain call for Warwick Davis as the Leprechaun.  No, this series is not in the slightest scary, but for the majority of its run that was never its intention.  I've never seen the one that came out last year, but I'm pretty sure its a reboot.  I wanted to see it, but I just got busy and it got away from me.  I bought the Blu-ray set Day 1 and am just now getting to it thanks to this retrospective.  Which, by the way, I highly recommend the set as each film has an 18-25 minute retrospective documentary (And a new commentary) with new interviews from cast and crew from Red Shirt Productions (They do all the Scream Factory and Synapse Films retros).  They totally make the set.  Anywho, next time will be my first one in this retrospective with fresh eyes.  Looks like they're trying to make a scary one, which doesn't truly feel like that's in tune with what the series truly is.

NEXT TIME:  Because we have to know the "Origin" right?  So important...

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