Sunday, October 12, 2014

Black Dynamite - 2009

"Black Dynamite" - 2009
Dir. by Scott Sanders - 1 hr. 24 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

I think I've officially seen more spoofs of blaxploitation films than the real deal.  It's okay, I've got "Blacula" on my DVR, in honor of the Halloween season.  "Black Dynamite" goes in a different direction than other spoofs (and spoofs in general, actually) - instead of putting someone who clearly has no business being the lead in an ass-kicking movie front and center, they find someone who ought to be the lead in an ass-kicking movie and let him take everything extremely seriously.  The result is a lot of fun, whether or not you have any affinity for Jim Kelly or Isaac Hayes movies.

Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is everything you imagine when you see a hero from the 'hood, wearing a mustache and afro to go along with his leather jacket.  Unfortunately, someone has killed his younger brother, Jimmy (Baron Vaughn), in a mix-up over a new drug to hit the streets, smack.  Black Dynamite vows to avenge his brother's death, but soon finds himself in the midst of a much larger plot aimed at his community.  Ultimately, this leads to a trip to Kung-Fu Island and a showdown with Fiendish Dr. Wu (Roger Yuan), and nothing less than a hand-to-hand combat showdown with President Richard Nixon (James McManus).

Trying to explain why comedy works is difficult.  I found "Black Dynamite" to be a really, really good comedy, which implies strongly that the comedy here works well.  A lot of the credit for that has to go to lead Michael Jai White; it's hard enough to develop real martial arts skills and to be able to pull off a lot of these stunts legit (there's a great scene where he jumps up and kicks out the overhead lights - not only is it something that an awesome action hero would do, but it's something that White just jumps up and does without any help), but then to put those skills in the service of comedy...  To be sure, the script and jokes are tight.  They've got to be, when the jokes in a scene can come from anything from the boom mic dropping into frame, to clueless erroneous line readings (my favorite being, "Sarcastically, I'm in charge."), to Black Dynamite having unexpected rage-filled overreactions to other characters on occasion, to actual jokes being told.  In this way, "Black Dynamite" borrows heavily from "Airplane!," rewarding extra attention being paid with extra gags.  And, like "Airplane!," "Black Dynamite" is endlessly quotable.

To my mind, "Black Dynamite" is probably the best blaxploitation spoof film out there.  It helps that it's genuinely funny, it helps that there's a story being told (even if it's an amalagmation of every black-focused low-budget movie from the 1970s).  It helps a lot that White would feel at home leading a legit action film.  When you can get past the gag of having an unlikely comedian being the focus of this kind of movie, it opens up a lot of options as to the story you can tell and the humor you can wring from it.  I was continually impressed by the fact that "Black Dynamite" wasn't a one-joke movie.  For a film with a short-ish run-time, there is a lot crammed into the film (including the origin of Roscoes Chicken and Waffles), and no lulls in the story at all.  It's one joke after another, with no let-up, and they come from all angles.

Instead of beating a dead horse (being that "Black Dynamite" is really funny, and I think you should see it), I'll just leave things at that.

4 / 5 - TV (HD)

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