Black Dynamite

DVD cover, Sony PicturesBlack Dynamite is an over-the-top spoof of the popular Blaxploitation film genre of the 1970’s. Blaxploitation films were born out of the African-American communities dislike of the way black men were portrayed in Sidney Poitier films and Hollywood’s desire to solve their own financial problems by making movies that would appeal to African-Americans, who  were buying movie tickets more than any other group of people at this time.

Blaxploitation films were known for their sex, violence and common portrayal of whites as being corrupt.

The Blaxploitation period produced classic films such as Shaft and Superfly, while making Richard Roundtree, Ron O’Neil and Pam Greer into superstars. Gordon Parks, his son Gordon Parks Jr. and Melvin Van Peebles also gained fame for their work as directors. The soundtracks for many of the Blaxploitation films also became very popular and influential.

This very entertaining parody is the brainchild of actors Michael Jai White (Spawn) and Byron Minns (Trespass) plus popular LA DJ Scott Sanders. The three of them combined to write, act and direct a movie that wonderfully captures the spirit of the Blaxploitation genre with the added benefit of laugh-out-loud humor.

Black Dynamite (White) is the coolest and toughest brother in town. He is ex-CIA and a kung fu master. After he learns that his brother was gunned down by the mob and that the streets are overflowing with drugs, Black Dynamite declares war! He’s out for revenge and he’s looking to clean up the neighborhood. There’s no need to worry because as Black Dynamite says,” Dynamite’s gonna shake the tree from the roots, rake up the fruits, rip it up out the ground to find out what’s goin down. Don’t worry bout tomorrow cause tonight Dynamite’s gonna make it all right!”

The overall production design created by Denise Pizzini makes you feel like Black Dynamite was made during the 1970’s and not almost 40 years later.  The hair (Charles Gregory Ross), the costumes (Ruth E. Carter) and the sets (Antonia Nunez) all work together marvelously to transport you back to the flashy 70’s. Brian Adler’s visual effects make the images looked aged, like they were actually filmed so many years ago, makes Black Dynamite look like an authentic Blaxploitation era film.

The music of newcomer Adrian Younge would make legendary Blaxploitation music writers Issac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield smile. The funky beat and soulful sounds are outstanding. The music adds another layer of realism to Black Dynamite.

Michael Jai White, a black belt in 7 different forms of martial arts, naturally has no problems with the action scenes and is equally smooth with his comedy. There are also several funny performances by Tommy Davidson, Arsenio Hall, Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump), Cedric Yarbrough (TV’s Reno 911!) and James McManus.

While Black Dynamite has plenty of positives, there also a few negatives as well. After Black Dynamite gets his retribution and cleans up the streets, the story zooms off into an unneeded direction. We are given a plot twist that, if you’re familiar with Blaxploitation films, is not surprising.

This leads Black Dynamite to find out who is responsible for a conspiracy that involves the shrinkage of African-American men’s prized “manhood.” The trail leads Black Dynamite to Kung Fu Island where he battles Fiendish Dr. Wu (Roger Yuan, Shanghai Noon) and he eventually ends up at the White House for a final showdown with President “Tricky Dick” Nixon (McManus).

This extension of the story breaks up the nice continuity that the film had up to this point. Maybe White, Minns and Sanders ran out of material and threw this in to make the 90 minute runtime, but aside from some laughs at the White House, it doesn’t work. Also, the shots of a shrunken penis are tasteless, not funny and there are some scenes in which the language gets pretty foul.

With that being said, if three Austin Powers movies can be made, then another Black Dynamite would be all right with me!

Black Dynamite is now available on DVD. Click on the movie screen below to see its trailer.

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