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Movie Review: Black Dynamite

Prinz Lee image

Prinz Lee wrote this review 6 years and 3 months ago

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Written Oct. 8, 2009

“DYNO-MITE…! – DYNO-MITE…!” HA! All night, morning and perhaps well into the rest of the day I’m sure I’ll have the film’s jingle. Put it this way… whenever heard, it means he’s coming to straighten shit out!

Ladies and gentleman… I’m about to review one of the funniest fucking movies I’ve EVER SEEN in my life!

Director Scott Sanders and a team of screenwriters have created a '70s-era comedy that, to its credit, actually manages to bring forth several of the sub-genres staples: Our hero is a noble ass-kicker who uses urban slang; women hang on his every gesture; villains quake at the sight of Black Dynamite's fighting stance; and of course the proceedings are coated with a colorful display of tacky clothes, crazy cars, and hilariously over-the-top fight scenes. And when I say hilarious, I really mean it. This film expresses some of the funniest dialog I’ve heard all year within any comedy flick I’ve seen. Yes… ANY comedy flick I’ve seen. Although “The Hangover” will sit on its own comedic throne, “Black Dynamite” might as well have it’s own. Its urban jargon never rests and flares off like a stand up show with lots of action, sex appeal, and soul.

The spoof (aka broad parody) sub-genre is a schizophrenic monster. At its best, the spoof can treat you to something as sublime as “Airplane!,” as mindlessly amusing as the “Scary Movie” series, or as stunningly worthless as “Epic Movie.” But the spoof remains the comedy sub-genre for filmmakers who are also movie geeks. Basically, you need to have seen a lot of Airport movies to write “Airplane!,” and you need to have some solid experience with blaxploitation movies to produce something like “Hollywood Shuffle, I'm Gonna Get You Sucka,” or this newest arrival: The slightly overlong but consistently laugh-worthy “Black Dynamite,” which aims to do to “Shaft” and “Superfly” what “The Naked Gun” did to police procedurals.

This is the story of 1970s African-American action legend Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White.) The Man killed his brother, pumped heroin into local orphanages, and flooded the ghetto with adulterated malt liquor labeled Anaconda. Black Dynamite was the one and only hero willing to fight The Man all the way from the blood-soaked city streets to the hallowed halls of the Honky House…

Spoof films seemingly wind up getting snubbed by many, however; this time around I can honestly say it works. This isn’t your typical main-stream commercialized production. For the most part, the experiment works like a charm. What I found most appealing about Black Dynamite is that, while it will certainly strike a chord with the old-school blaxploitation fans, the flick also works on its own as a very broad, very goofy, and (yep) very clever little satire. Even if you wouldn't know “Hammer” from “Blacula,” there's a good deal of straightforward silliness to be found in Black Dynamite -- and it also feels like one of those eminently quotable comedies that frat guys and movie geeks will come back to time and again. Black Dynamite is to blaxploitation what Austin Powers is to '60s spy flicks -- and really, how many young comedy fans know anything about “In Like Flint, Sweet Charity,” or “Modesty Blaise?” Very few, but that didn't prevent “Austin Powers” from becoming a popular franchise.

But the one fear that arose between the time I saw the (hilarious) Black Dynamite trailer and the entire film -- that the flick would have a hard time sustaining its tone for 90-some minutes -- was quickly squashed by the perfect lead performance of an amazingly funny Michael Jai White. He's got the body, the attitude, the bad-ass street skills and (best of all) comic timing. Even through the handful of slow spots found in Black Dynamite, Mr. White is quite excellent in a 'make or break' role. Just like Leslie Nielsen is the key component in the “Naked Gun” series, Michael Jai White throws the whole movie on his back and wins you over by sheer force of straight-faced silliness. And that's the key to a good spoof, when all is said and done: The characters can NOT be in on the joke, and this is a perspective that Sanders and White NAILED with satisfying consistency. Best of all, when it's not oozing out slapsticky fight scenes or overthrowing genre-specific conventions, Black Dynamite is happy to trade in bizarre unexpected weirdness, and cleverly profane banter that will yank a few chuckles from even the newbiest blaxploitation fan.

Among urban inhabitants, I can totally see this film being somewhat of a cult-classic sharing quotes and perhaps mimicking specific actions being the new it-thing that will clearly send this piece into a wave of contemporary trend(s). It’s sort of like “I’m Rick James, Bitch!” Yeah… you know what I’m talking about.



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