Sunday, October 18, 2009

Review: Black Dynamite

Staring: Michael Jai White, Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Tommy Davidson
Written by Michael Jai White, Byron Minns and Scott Sanders
Directed by Scott Sanders

Grindhouse cinema has had a bit of a revolution in mainstream media these days; Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez came out with their "Sleaze-Filled Saga of an Exploitation Double Feature" Grindhouse which unfortunately due to it's Easter weekend release and over three hour run-time bombed at the box office. This time, a bit hit from the Sundance Film Festival Black Dynamite is ready to take on the genre not touched upon in the three hour extravaganza: Blaxploitation. The trailer for Dynamite is a fun video you may find in the film Grindhouse alongside "Werewolf Women of the SS" seeking to spoof the genre it's in. The question that's raised is this: Does the concept which makes for a great trailer translate into an hour and a half spoof of the genre or is it just a one-joke pony? In all honestly, if this movie were three hours long, I believe it could pull it off; Black Dynamite is the funniest movie of the year and absolutely one of it's best.

At this point, I would normally give a brief synopsis of the movie, but the Trailer does the job for me and the film gives you a lot of what you would expect from a spoof. The film is about our hero Black Dynamite who's brother was killed by the local mob so Dynamite has to fine the people responsible "all the way to the top." It leads him to the local mob syndicate, an island leading to a conspiracy, and all the way to the white house before going through crack houses, rooftops, the highway, and lots of blood, bodies, and women.

Whenever someone does a spoof of a genre, it usually looks like a 2nd rate version of what it's making fun of usually in attempt to put the genre down the level. Dynamite is a spoof that while it is making fun of the conventions on the genre puts an extraordinary amount of work into making look like it came from the 70's. It's shot to look like an old film stock shot from the era, the world has elaborate designs from the costumes to the special effects and the film even begins with a fake trailer for Anaconda Malt Liquor, "the drink that make's you go Oooooooo!" While it makes fun of the genre, the work that went into the art of the film puts it in the Blaxploitation genre.

Don't go in the theater thinking this is going to be a deep, nostalgic reflection of Black rebellion in the face of change and oppression of the 1970's; it's ultimate goal is to make a silly parody of movies like Dolemite and Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. You know exactly how this film is going to end and how it's going to play out. The only really intellectual thing I can say about the film is that what it's trying to say is that the Blaxploitation films get a reputation of being the great crusade of rebellion that was a release for a movement when in reality these films for the most part are poorly crafted and frankly stereotypical. Black Dynamite is a kind of call back to reality for what the genre is but still revels in being one itself; and loves every second of it!

Sometimes it's not so much about what your delivering but the execution. All the actors in the film play the situations like they're life or death in the most ridiculous over-the-top situations which is what makes everything in this film work. You've probably seen star and co-writer Michael Jai White in The Dark Knight or fighting David Carradine in Kill Bill but here he really shines. All the kung-fu is preformed by him and while he gives a straight face bad motha preformance, he even shows sincerity in his role. He's not just a one note person but has an impressive, multilayered performance. It really is a shame comedy actors don't get Oscars more because White truly earns one here.

Michael Jai White gives a Brilliant Performance as Dynamite

Dynamite is a movie that like it's main character seeks to top itself with every scene; when you think the main bad guy is gone, another worthy opponent shows up along with another worthy opponent. Most of the movie has very obvious winks from a hilarious chase between Dynamite and Cream Corn(yes, his name is Cream Corn), the stock footage used more than once, parts of intentionally bad continuity including a tear, and a boom mic that should get it's own IMDB page. So many moments in this film I asked myself "what? WHAT?!?!" So much of the clever site gags and jokes took me by surprise and left me holding on to the seat with laughter. I honestly haven't had as good a time at the movies since I saw Borat.

I could go on and on praising the the individual scenes that I found myself repeating and quoting with friends long after but I wont spoil anything. I honestly dont have anything to knit pick about; all the jokes worked and made me laugh to the point where I'm happy I didn't eat anything before it. I loved all the music, performances, choices, how Anaconda Malt liquor plays a role in it all and the hilarious final fight between Dynamite and the President of the United States. Also, this movie isn't just for Blaxploitation fans or for Black people only; speaking as a white suburban male with only an intro to the genre there's plenty here for the frat-boy demographic and the film fanatics to dig into. It's not playing wide just yet but when it does go there opening night for a terrific parody. I don't usually like to swear in my reviews but it really earns it: Black Dynamite is a fucking blast!

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