Quite a few people are familiar with Hip-Hop O.G. Ice-T, but where you know him from differs from fan to fan. Most know him as veteran voice in the West Coast gangsta rap scene from “6’n The Morn” to “Colors.” But even more know him from his time on the screen both TV and silver. Over the years he’s racked up classics (“Law and Order”) and flops (“Leprechaun In The Hood”) in both fields, something that can be said for any artist with longevity. Enter “Surviving The Game” a movie from 1994 starring Ice-T that’s considered an official flop by every one but this writer!
Look, seeing as it debuted at number 6 at the box office, took $7 million to shoot and made $7.7 million back, I won’t argue the numbers. Nobody can confuse breaking even with big success… but my thought was why?! The movie is dope as hell!
A homeless dude (Ice-T) who’s a bit unstable is about to end it all after losing his best friend and his dog in the same day but is “saved by a dude working at a homeless shelter (Charles S. Dutton) and offered a job in the woods with pay and benefits. (What Black man wouldn’t jump in without research after hearing the word “benefits”.) Only to find out that he’s actually been brought to the middle of nowhere to be hunted by Charls S. Dutton, Rutger Hauer, Gary Busey, John C. McGinley and others! Ice ends up taking them all on and picking them off one by one until he walks off into the night the sole survivor… aka A GREAT DAY AT THE MOVIES!! This was like the “Predator” without the alien but with the same hairstyle.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Mecc, if this movie was so great, how come I never saw it?’ And that would be a very valid question. And as such, I’ll give you four equally valid answers.
1). The Title.
Any movie with a rapper in it –even in the case of L.A. O.G. Ice-T–must be aware that people of all races, creeds and colors are gonna be skeptical from the door. No one wants to get sucked into another “fighting-all-odds-to-make-it-out-of-the-streets” flick. This was ’94, there wasn’t a computer in every house for folks to run online and check the previews. If you didn’t catch a commercial, you weren’t risking the dough on anything called “Surviving The Game.”
2). Ice -T With Dreads.
“Now wait a minute man… Ice had dreads in ‘New Jack City’, too!” This would be a fact. Another one would be, that Ice 1) always had them to the back so it looked like his signature slick back anyway and 2) rocked so many hats all through the movie, you really couldn’t tell. In “STG” however, Ice rocked a dread wig so brolic, you couldn’t see his face for most of the flick and basically had to take the studios word for it that the guy behind the fuzzy ropes was him! This monstrosity would’ve made a Marley flinch and basically had Ice-T looking like the original Hip-Hop hobo. Good for the script, bad for star power.
3). Charles S. Dutton As a Bad Guy.
So that’s your main villain? Roc, the friendly neighborhood Baltimore trash collector? You’re talking about Mr. Butler? Sharif’s dad from “Menace To Society,” the father of the dude who was trying to get them to stop drinking 40’s?? So one minute he’s warning black people “The Hunt is on, and you’re the prey!” and next he’s the one doing the hunting?? In the words of his “Menace” cast mate Bill Duke who would have been a waaaay more buyable bad guy “You know you done f*cked up right?” But Charles S. Dutton as a cold-blooded, ruthless hunter of men? Ain’t nobody got time for that…
4). The Black Guy Lives At The End
Wrong “Hollywood ending.” Nuff said.
At the end of the day, “Surviving The Game” may never survive its rep as a film that flopped on Ice-T’s watch. But with old school movies becoming cult-classics out of the blue, it’s my sincere hope that when it comes to this rough patch along Ice’s road to riches… the game ain’t over yet.
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