Listen up all you jive talkin’ turkeys; the baddest, smoothest, most electrifying hustler of the 70’s is out for revenge. His name is Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White). Our hero’s beloved brother Jimmy has just been murdered. Furthermore the ghettos most vulnerable are drowning in a narcotic deluge of heroin and a highly addictive contaminated brand of malt liquor that causes penile shrinkage is ravaging the streets. With the kids all smacked-up and African-American phalluses a-failin’ someone has to stick it to The Man...
As both a loving homage to and parody of classic blaxploitation cinema, Black Dynamite works exceedingly well. Shot on Super 16 film stock and featuring charming 1970’s crash-zoom intensive camerawork it mimics the grimy Grindhouse aesthetic to a tee. The production design oozes authenticity from the hideous decor to ostentatious pimp-garb sported by protagonists. Couple this with poorly spliced stock footage, kitsch animation sequences and plenty of wry “Boom in Shot” continuity errors and you’ve a got a level of period filmic verisimilitude that Planet Terror and Death Proof wish they’d achieved.
Jai White plays his amalgam of black anti-heroes with gusto, part Richard Roundtree, part Rudy Ray Moore, all bad-ass. Dynamite is a swaggering perma-scowled player with a harem of kung-fu chopping honeys on call. Borrowing most heavily from Shaft and the “so-awful-its-great” Dolemite, genre clichés are mercilessly ribbed and subverted. Black Dynamite is not only a Vietnam vet but also ex-CIA and a martial arts master to boot.
The strong misogynistic streak pervading the Blaxploitation canon provides for some of the most consistent laughs. The flick revels in the gloriously politically incorrect opportunities provided by a genre whose paragons of black masculinity, despite their righteousness and courage, were essentially male chauvinists.
Unlike the recent raft of genre spoofs to have stunk up multiplexes worldwide with their scatological pre-occupations and non-existent narratives, i.e. the Scary/Date/Epic Movie “comedies”, Black Dynamite actually has a structured story and secondary characters with some semblance of depth. It’s a proper film in its own right in the vein of Top Secret! and Airplane. By maintaining a tight structure and refraining from making the plot subordinate to a few set-piece gags, the delirious narrative shifts of the film’s final act are all the more enjoyable as Dynamite storms the “Honkey House” for a showdown with none other than a nunchuck-wielding President Nixon.
Black Dynamite wholly succeeds in parodying that eclectic gumbo of Bondian superspy influences and Kung-Fu vogue that characterised the 70’s Blaxploitation genre. No mean feat. It’s frequently funny, occasionally hilarious and lots of fun over its brisk runtime. Can you dig it brothers?