The film provides an in depth look into not only the Insane Clown Posse, but the loyal fan group, The Juggalos. It takes a deep dive into the life of the members, from childhood through the inception of their musical personas - Violent J, and Shaggy 2 Dope.
Normally, I'd do a review or critique using the sandwich method (starting with what I liked, then going into what I think could have been better, then wrapping it up with more positives) but this film, I feel needs to start with the negatives, and after I explain them, it'll be more obvious why I chose to go this route.
I will be direct in saying that this movie is an easy 8/10. It's absolutely hilarious, and entertaining throughout, however the two major issues and things that keep it from being a 10/10 for me come from the inconsistency in story telling, and what feels like a lack of clear understanding (with the filmmakers) on what the documentary is about.
The film jumps around quite a bit, and at times the segments almost feel disconnected from one another. What I mean is that we'll be following ICP as they talk about where they grew up, and then it'll switch to the Juggalos talking about their experiences with law enforcement, then it'll talk about The Gathering of the Juggalos, and then more stories about Juggalos, and then more backstory on the musicians. The story is weaved together like a pair of shoelaces, which can be interesting, but it also takes away from the narrative at times.
The other thing that I feel hurts this film is that it seems like the filmmakers were unsure of what they wanted to focus on in the film. We often jump between ICP as the focal point, to the FBI labeling Juggalos as a gang as the focal point, to Juggalos and The Gathering as the focal point. Now, I've seen plenty of documentaries in my life, and understand that it's important to have individual stories and arcs within the main blanket story, however, this film feels like it's missing that main blanket, and instead wants all of these stories to be the main story. The film is marketed as ICP/Juggalos v The FBI, yet I'd say only 35 - 40 minutes of the almost 2 hour run time seems to focus on that, with the rest being mainly about ICP and the world they built. This isn't a massive issue, as without ICP there are no Juggalos, and vice versa.
Now, with the two negatives out of the way, I can jump into what I loved about the film.
The filmmakers did something that seems to be difficult to do (at least from what I've seen in some recent documentaries) and that is to take both sides of the argument into consideration and present facts for both sides to the viewer. They present all information in an unbiased way, allowing people from all parties to express their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and data without criticism. It never blatantly tells the audience, "These people are clearly wrong" or "These people are clearly right" but rather let's the audience decide for themselves.
Another thing I loved in the film is the perfectly placed humor. With documentaries, it's imperative to understand that the grey area is key, and extremes on either side can cause the audience to lose confidence in the story teller. This is especially true when dealing with subject matter that is serious - such as people's lives being ruined by law enforcement over what t-shirt they were wearing, or band they were listening to at the wrong place/time. This film understands how absurd the idea of being considered a criminal over listening to the music of two guys who paint themselves up like clowns and sing about killing pedophiles and domestic abusers is, and it shows that understanding through very subtle insertions of humor. A funny news headline here, old interview clip there, or perfectly placed punchline to a serious segment. For instance, there is a scene where a woman is discussing her husband - a longtime fan of ICP - and how he's serving life in prison. She smiles and explains that she brought his mugshot to a meet and greet to have signed by the band. The camera focuses on the photo long enough for the audience to process the absurdity of the scene, and soak in the hilarity of it all. A woman bringing her husbands mugshot to his favorite band to get signed. Not only is the strangeness of the request to have a mugshot signed comedic, but what the members of the group say to the woman, and her husband (who she calls during the signing) during it, is the icing on the comedic cake. These types of scenes are sprinkled perfectly throughout the film, and add the perfect level of humor to an otherwise serious documentary.
The last point I'd like to make is how deeply intriguing the film is, along with the message of, "If it can happen to them, it can happen to you." This is not a film FOR Juggalos, but rather a film ABOUT Juggalos, and the acceptance and understanding that they lack from most of society. It's insane to think that the government can deem someone as dangerous or a criminal based on who their favorite band is. And it makes you take a step back and really think about a question that pops up frequently in the film, "If Juggalos can be considered a gang by the FBI for being fans of ICP, then what else can the FBI claim people are gang members for?" We watch and learn about how a group of people's rights are imposed upon based on something as simple as musical preferences, and it leaves the audience pondering. Do a few bad apples spoil the bunch? Can we make a judgment based solely on the actions of a few outliers? What if it was you?
I loved every moment of this film, and was entertained throughout. It was engaging, informative, and intriguing from start to finish.
(A very strong) 8/10
Be sure to stay after the credits if you're a fan of ICP, as there is about 15 minutes of bonus live footage.