Black Dynamite – Review

Solid but not brilliant poking of the Blaxpoitation era

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Director: Scott Sanders
Notable Cast:
Michael Jai White, Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson, Kevin Chapman, Salli Richardson, Kym Whitley, Cedric Yarbrough

Lampooning the Blaxpoitation era of film-making has been something that hasn’t had happened all too often because the genre was often a parody of itself to begin with. Especially after I’m Gonna Git You Sucka became perhaps the ultimate spoof of all things Blaxpoitation, it would seem that poking fun at the genre would seem to be already done to the point where it’d be overkill. Along comes Black Dynamite, a solidly funny poke in the vein of Grindhouse that collapses under its own weight.

Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is a retired CIA agent and crusader of the streets when his brother is killed during a drug deal. With the orphanages being flooded with heroin, and importing of malt liquor into the stores becoming more of a problem, Black Dynamite finds that the more he gets involved the more conspiracy he unveils. Reaching to the highest level of government, Black Dynamite brings a hands-on approach to all the problems presented via his mastery of kung fu and firearms. Done in a cheesy, completely over the top style, the film is 90 minutes long but overstays its welcome by at least 30.

Black Dynamite has plenty going for it, but the key problem it has it that it only has a certain level the material can rise to and never goes beyond that. This is over the top in every aspect but there’s too much of it; there are large gaps of material that misses the mark completely that takes away from the rest of mostly funny material. The film tries to do the one thing a great spoof does but never fully accomplishes it: try to be a great spoof of a genre piece while also being a great genre piece.

It’s not for lack of effort, especially from writer/star Michael Jai White. In incredible shape to begin with, White takes the Christopher Reeve approach to the ridiculous nature of his Superman films: by playing it so serious that you think he’s deep in some method acting yet being in on the joke the whole time. Certain things he does, like a double take at a boom microphone in a shot, get laughs without trying to.

The film itself is brilliant in how it reconstructs the era of film-making it lampoons. From the suits to the colors, and the cars, 1972 looks incredible. Even the film-making style itself is reminiscent of the era, from the quick cuts and shaky editing to its overuse of close-ups, Black Dynamite could be put into a collection of films from the era and not stand out as having been made 30 years after the fact.

Soon to be a cult favorite, Black Dynamite is a nice find that aspires to being good, not great, film and never exceeds that simple expectation.


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