By Dan Kinem
“This time they’ve been pushed too far. Now someone else is gonna dance to the music.”
It has finally happened. The day has come where we have been completely 100% blown away by a movie. I am now embarrassed that before we started this underrated masterpiece I was complaining that it was 92 minutes long (as if that is too long), now I’m complaining it was that short. Tougher Than Leather is a Run-DMC promotional movie which coincided with the release of their album of the same name, but it’s much more than that. It is a Blaxploitation masterpiece which has been forgotten and is now collecting dust in boxes in people’s garages. Somehow this has never been released on DVD, yet features not only Run-DMC, but Slick Rick, Rick Rubin, Public Enemy, and The Beastie Boys. That alone is enough to warrant a viewing and a release. And this deserves more than just a simple DVD release, too, it deserves a three-disc set featuring the film, tons of special features, and the album. It is that good.
The script was originally turned down by Spike Lee who went and directed Do the Right Thing instead. Not a good move on your part Spike, not a good move at all. In classic Blaxploitation fashion it is the tale of the black man having to rise up and take the law into their own hands against the white man. It opens with tour de force direction and performances. Daryl from Run-DMC gets out of jail and is picked up by the rest of the group, what results is a fucking hilarious set of extremely extreme close-ups and sex talk. Jam Master Jay immediately begins to talk about girls. With lines like, “Big fat stupid asses. Big asses. These bitches is exotic, man.” and “You know what she did next? Put it in her mouth. Started licking up and down. And then you know what she do?… She bite it off! … Man, that’s fucked up.” you can’t not be sucked in. And it’s shot like an arthouse music video, too, which only adds to enjoyment.
After this great opening it kicks into the heart of the movie, the music. Run-DMC are performing a show and of course they are mind-blowing. One of the best groups to ever grace the mic and this movie captures them in their prime. After this show they have a meeting about getting signed by Rick Rubin, who is just playing a character version of himself. He is of course a greedy racist prick who is just using the group to make money. Case in point, after being forced into signing The Beastie Boys he justifies it by saying, “Well no one wants to watch a basketball team with ten niggers.” So even this early on you are already rooting against him. Run-DMC goes on tour and they bring their homeboy, Ray, along, who is a little slow, but still a good guy. They make him run their errands, such as getting them a bizarre fish + five beef patty monstrosity from White Castle. He of course runs into some trouble on his way to do this, though. He gets mugged, but soon after stumbles upon a limo driver having car trouble. He somehow fixes the car with a penny, the driver gives him some money, and then drives him to get the food and back to surprise the group. Later, sadly, Rubin ends up shooting Ray after he accidentally stumbles into his office and witnesses a business related killing. That’s what sends Run-DMC on a fucking rampage of hilarious glory. They begin kicking down the doors of every racist white prick in sight, and trust me, there are plenty of them.
They go into a racist bar looking for the guys that killed Ray and it ends in a brawl, of course. During the fight Darryl sits there drinking his beer and eating some peanuts while Jam Master Jay and Rev Run destroy two racist hicks, then the bartender tries to hit Darryl and he immediately crushes his hand and says, “You don’t want to do that.” and then punches him out. And as if that wasn’t enough, as they are leaving the wreckage Jam Master Jay is drinking a bottle of alcohol and stops before they leave and says, “I always wanted to do this.” then whips the bottle at a mirror and walks out. Hard as fuck. That’s all you will be saying the whole movie is how fucking hard Run-DMC is. The hardest mother fuckers on the planet. The ending will have you screaming and pounding your fist in sheer bliss. It is absolutely perfect, and without spoiling it, involves some great revenge getting.
This is an obscure relic of 80s hip hop culture exaggerated to the extreme but brought to fruition by the excellent direction of Rick Rubin, the amazing soundtrack, and just how badass Run-DMC is. While it is cheesy it is also genuinely hilarious and well-made and you owe it to yourself to track this down and enjoy. It is one of the most underrated movies I’ve ever watched and top five VHShitfest movies.