Blaxploitation is a genre of film that is regularly paid homage to, but is rarely duplicated in this day and age. While Tarantino’s grindhouse style exploits eschew some of the genre’s high and low points, none of them are flat out doing the real thing. Black Dynamite is the rare beast that dares to challenge viewers into accepting it into the anachronistic genre, while at the same time being a complete spoof. Oddly enough, it manages to work as both, though it definitely makes you laugh your sweet ass off more than yelp with the bad action.
Michael Jai White is Black Dynamite, in both the character and, really, the film. Being the lead star as well as the movie’s main writer, there is a flexibility in White’s talents that I’ve never seen before. Even after his more complicated roles, he still never had much room to stretch on screen. With Black Dynamite he showed me multiple things I never knew about him. He can be a hilarious actor as well as a clever and witty writer. Still, he isn’t the only person in the film that kills each time he is on the screen.
With some fantastic cameos, such as Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson, Mykelti Williamson, and even Brian McKnight, the “white devil” is in the details. The cast knows what is what and manages to stay straight faced through some of the most hilarious and ridiculous shit I’ve seen on screen in years. Matching, and I dare say possibly surpassing, the funniest moments of I’m Gonna Git You Sucka isn’t hard for them to do. They keep the film on track with all the conventions of the genre and just blow it all apart. From Black Dynamite’s past as an agent of the law, to him getting the revenge on his little brother’s death, no black stone is left unturned.
When they aren’t copping on the blaxploitation clichés they manage to throw their hat in with spoof classics and just go for the ridiculous. One lengthy scene that had the audience dying was the moment where they figure out a nefarious plot by “the man” to undo the endowment of the entire male black population’s sexual prowess. Of course, this would be by poisoning malt liquor. But that isn’t the funny part. They went through a battery of twisty-turny wordplay filled with Greco-Roman mythology just to reach the very non-sequitur conclusion. The scene seems to go on forever, but in a good way. He also manages to fight the proliferation of heroin in the orphanage. “They don’t even have any parents!”
When Black Dynamite isn’t fighting bad guys, he’s going after all the tail he can get. Hell, the opening of the film has him bedding three women at once. Obviously, he’s just too much for one mere woman. Years of CIA work and kung-fu must have left his libido tapped on high, because isn’t that what happened to all the big bad brothers of the ’70s? Though Black Dynamite is seemingly hilarious from front to back, there is one low moment. Near the end of the film, when BD finally catches up to just who “The Man” is, the confrontation is a bit bungled and way more strange and oddly paced than funny. Still, the film manages to throw curveballs and weird plot devices just like the movies it is lampooning so I guess it is okay, just for accuracy.
Black Dynamite is a refreshing look at an untapped wealth of pop-culture. Making fun of a genre is one thing, but making sure your comedy delivers on some of the authenticities of that world makes it even funnier. Satire is a much healthier and intelligent way of tackling generational subject matter that may only be fond to those who are waxing nostalgic about it. You have to make everyone else laugh too, and Black Dynamite definitely delivers the goods. I wish this film was getting a much larger release and promotional push, but unfortunately those dollars are saved for romantic comedies that no one should see. Fight the power, stick it to the man, and go see Black Dynamite this weekend, you jive ass turkey!
Movie Grade: B+