Movie review: Black Dynamite

black dyno“Black Dynamite” is the kind of movie you want to root for – after all, how many homages to 1970s blaxploitation films are there? – but save for some moments of truly inspired lunacy, it works better as a concept than as an actual film.

I want to be clear that I had a lot of fun with the movie, but in the end, it fell short of reaching the pantheon of truly great spoof/homage flicks like “The Naked Gun” or “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka!”.

In fact, calling “Dynamite” a spoof would be off base. It is as straightforward as a blaxploitation film made in 2009 can be. The level of authenticity in creating a 1974 milieu is impressive, and one of the elements that works in the movie’s favor. There are no wink-wink nods to the fact that everyone is in on the joke. The entire movie is the joke.

I also question how this film is going to connect with the audience most likely to see it – young hipsters who may have seen “Shaft” or “Superfly” but who will not have the near-encyclopedic knowledge needed to keep up with all the in jokes from the scabs of C-level films this movie is attempting to imitate.

No, this is a film for my parents, who actually saw all the janky “Dolemite” films and would appreciate the insanity of Black Dynamite squaring off against Richard Nixon shortly after a big battle on Kung Fu Island.

Michael Jai White (who also wrote the screenplay) stars as the titular character, an unparalleled bad-ass who can pleasure three ladies at a time as well as dispatch an entire gang with his sweet kung-fu moves.

But when Black Dynamite’s brother is killed, he reluctantly joins forces with the CIA and a group of militant leaders to help rid the streets of smack and wipe out the always-nefarious Man.

Filled with awkward dialogue, stunted performances, glitchy camerawork, continuity errors, visible boom mics, stock footage and scene-specific songs, the film is a pitch-perfect replica of the ham-fisted movies that flooded the market after the success of (good) films like the aforementioned “Shaft” and “Superfly”.

It’s a credit to White and director Scott Sanders that their level of dedication has produced such a technically proficient film, all the way down to the wandering plot that eventually goes off the rails. The first 50 minutes or so are brilliant, but things get bogged down in the last half hour – it begins to feel like the one-note premise has reached its limit.

Still, the simple fact that “Black Dynamite” was released theatrically is a blessing; rarely are creative ideas rewarded in Hollywood these days.

It’s nice to see White in a leading role instead of simply as the tough guy. Yeah, he may have mega-muscles, but he’s a talented actor as well. I’ve been a fan since watching him in the little-seen “Thick as Thieves” (also directed by Sanders), and hopefully playing Black Dynamite will transform him into a household name.

“Black Dynamite” may not be perfect, but neither are the films it so lovingly recreates. It’s all part of the charm, you jive sucka!

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~ by Elliott on October 28, 2009.

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