- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Apparition
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
here are movies that are bad, and movies that are so bad they’re good. And then there’s “Black Dynamite,” a pitch-perfect homage to blaxploitation cinema that, while it might seem pretty bad by today’s standards, is actually quite brilliant in its execution. In fact, although "Black Dynamite" operates primarily as a spoof of movies like “Shaft" and “Superfly,” it could just as easily exist alongside those films thanks to a wildly charismatic performance by Michael Jai White as a jive-talking, kung-fu fighting badass. This isn’t the 1970s, however, so while “Black Dynamite” certainly looks the part of a B-movie, it’s the film’s infectiously funny script that makes this self-aware parody an instant cult classic.
There’s not much of what you'd call a story to “Black Dynamite,” but then again, that’s kind of the point. Instead, the plot – which revolves around the title character (White) seeking revenge on the drug dealers who killed his kid brother – merely serves as a reason for Black Dynamite to suavely stroll from scene to scene delivering his special brand of ass-kicking to everyone from pimps and gangsters to kung-fu masters. There’s so little to the drug subplot, however, that an entirely new conspiracy is revealed midway through the movie that sends Black Dynamite and his crew (including a character named Cream Corn played by Tommy Davidson) on a mission to Kung Fu Island and, eventually, the White House – or as they call it, Honky House – to take down The Man.
It all ends with a climactic showdown between Black Dynamite and a certain public figure that is so out of left field that you’ll feel embarrassed you didn’t see it coming earlier. After all, the entire concept of “Black Dynamite” is based on the absurdity of blaxploitation films, and though it’s not necessary to be familiar with the genre before seeing the movie, it certainly helps. Then again, if you’re not already laughing, chances are you’ll never get the joke. “Black Dynamite” is a movie that requires you to laugh at things that are normally distracting – like bad dialogue, clumsy editing, or an actor acknowledging a boom mic in the frame – because that’s exactly what makes it funny.
Better yet, even with all of these conscious errors (not to mention some horrendous acting on the part of just about everyone aside from its lead actor), director Scott Sanders pulls it off with a straight face. Sure, there are a few playful winks and nods along the way, but for the most part, “Black Dynamite” is so faithful in its recreation of the genre – from the polyester costumes to the '70s funk soundtrack – that it could actually pass for the real thing. That’s the mark of a truly great parody film, because even when the movie begins to drag in the second act as Sanders bridges one storyline to the next, “Black Dynamite” remains committed to the gag. It may only be a one-joke movie when all is said and done, but it’s a joke that never runs out of laughs.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Considering “Black Dynamite” only made a paltry $242,000 during its limited theatrical run, Sony has included a surprising amount of bonus material for its Blu-ray release. Highlighted by a great audio commentary by director/co-writer Scott Sanders and actors/co-writers Michael Jai White and Byron Minns that points out the various jokes and homages to other blaxploitation films, the single-disc effort also includes a healthy selection of deleted and extended scenes, an interview-based making-of featurette, and footage from last year’s Comic-Con panel. Rounding out the set is the Blu-ray exclusive “Back in Action,” a 14-minute featurette that further explores the film's many influences.