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Black Dynamite

November 18, 2009

Black Dynamite tackles a near impossible goal and does it better than any film has yet to do and that’s create an homage to 1970s blaxplotation films by being one of its own. And damn does it do it well. Black Dynamite takes everything beautiful about the low-budget socially reflexive genre (the inconsistent editing, blatant use of stunt doubles, actors plagued with under/over acting, and themes focusing on “the man” and junkies) and rolls it into one out-of-sight package. I’ve only seen this brand of homage done best by the least likely, “MadTV” in their skits parodying 1970s educational/exploitation films. Yet unlike the classic I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and underrated Undercover Brother, Black Dynamite is not necessarily a parody but instead it an actual blaxploitation film.

The film invokes what theorist Susan Sontag called “deliberate camp” in order to convey “naive camp” in a way that makes the character Black Dynamite exist in the same world as Dolemite and John Shaft. It plays out as an actual film made in the 1970s, shot on what looks like 16MM around the streets of a small neighborhood like many of the films of that era. Sure it has its gags but again they exist in the same vain as the genre, such as an accidental boom mic appearing in frame and bad editing revealing a mishap during a fight scene causing an actor to break character.

Plain and simple Black Dynamite is hysterical. I saw the film a week ago and still find myself laughing out loud in public when I think of a scene. Yet to truly appreciate the magic of Black Dynamite it helps to be familiar with blaxploitation films, the grittier the better; Coffy, Dolemite, The Mack, etc,. Black Dynamite is a “Tom slick” brother who can get by with a wink and a smile called on for help by the CIA when his brother Jimmy is killed by the Mafia. He soon discovers that heroin has made its way into the orphanages of black youth and bad malt liquor is making its way on the streets to black men. It’s up to Black Dynamite to clean up the streets and discover the mass conspiracy against blacks by The Man.

The beauty of this film is how much it commits to being a 1970s exploitation film. Tarantino and Rodriguez attempted this with 2007’s homage/parody Grindhouse. However Grindhouse relied heavily on CGI and both films were pure works of auteurism. Not that it makes them bad films however; Tarantino’s Death Proof was a phenomenal film with some of his best writing but you knew it was a Tarantino film because of how he shot it; the long takes of dialogue, the foot shots, and excessive gore in a style all of his own. Just as Rodriguez’s gory but funny Planet Terror had his directorial stamp all over it.

Black Dynamite instead shies away from an auteur aspect. Its only style consists of emulating the gritty quickly made and cheaply produced but overly serious films of the blaxploitation genre complete with a soulful soundtrack. Black Dynamite’s only flaw was the complexity of its own story as by the end of the film it attempts to take on the role of also imitating the bruceploitation genre and while still funny and effective just a tad too much. But that does nothing to take away from its enjoyment and the fantastic performances from three of the most underrated actors in Hollywood; Michael Jai White, Bokeem Woodbine and Mykelti Williamson. Let me put it to you this way, Black Dynamite is straight up mean, meaner than two fat mutha fuckas wrestlin’ over pork chops and greens, can you dig it?

SEE IT. Over and over again.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2009 7:09 AM

    >FANTASTIC REVIEW!Very well written, to the point and very insightful. Truly written by a person who knows film and has a legitimate opinion of them

  2. December 1, 2009 3:05 AM

    >Thank you so much for the kind words! I truly appreciate the opinion of a fellow film lover!


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