Sony // 2009 // 84 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 29th, 2010
He's super bad. He's outta sight. He's...Black Dynamite.
From well-known ass-kicker Michael Jai White (Spawn), a combination satire/homage of and to '70s blaxploitation.
Black Dynamite (White) is super bad. And he is outta sight. But he's oh so much more. He's former CIA. He has a license to kill. He's a kung fu master. He's an orphan. His brother was shot dead by The Man. He has sexual intercourse with multiple women at a time. He's friends with pimps.
He will need to call upon all of his skills and contacts to take on the greatest challenge of his life; squaring off with smack dealers, street thugs, shady government operatives, deranged martial artists and perpetrators of the most diabolical, genital-affecting scheme ever devised.
The question on everyone's mind: is Black Dynamite superior to the current gold standard for blaxpoitation spoof, the fun but flawed I'm Gonna Get You Sucka? The "nuanced" answer, or, rather, cop-out, is that they're two different movies. Sucka is a gag-a-second Naked Gun style spoof, the Wayans' funniest endeavor before they started afflicting the Earth with Scary Movie installments.
Black Dynamite? It's actually a pretty smart satire (the filmmakers make a point of differentiating between "satire" and "spoof" in the extras), with more daylight between the jokes than most other parodies, but when the funny hits, you'll be laughing from the guts.
What jumps out immediately about this movie is its appearance. Black Dynamite absolutely feels like a genuine movie from the 1970s. The filmmakers chose a specific, retro film look, which gives the whole thing an authentic, grainy feel. This is the first cue of what White and director Scott Sanders are going after and why the satire tag applies; they've created a "believable" world where a '70s blaxploitation film might occur. The laughs don't come from a 21st century point of view, pointing and laughing and snickering at the goofiness of the spoofed genre, but rather all the gags are organic, springing from this alternate-time reality they've created.
So you'll get boom mikes in the shot, God-awful line-readings, an over-exuberant actor reading his stage direction aloud, nonsensical plot exposition, some piss-poor Dolemite-inspired martial artistry, deranged Chinese kung-fu thugs who show up for no reason and the ultimate Whitey bad guy for Black Dynamite to take out.
There are very, very funny moments and I bellowed out full, satisfying laughs when the movie unleashed them; my complaint, though, is there aren't enough jokes. And not just "hilarious jokes," but jokes in general. Often it felt as if the script was relying on the uniqueness of the film's gimmick to keep the mirth rolling, but that eventually wears off.
Watching this on Blu-ray offers an interesting conundrum. The 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is certainly not the slickest video presentation you'll find on Blu: it's grainy, the colors are washed out, the black levels lack any depth. But...it's all on purpose and the retro aesthetic is key to the film's success. The high-def does show up in the detailing, though, so Blu-ray is still preferable format for A/V junkies. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio blasts out the over-the-top sound work, from the punch effects to the bodacious score. Extras: cast and crew commentary, a fun making-of featurette, deleted scenes, interview footage form Comic Con and the Blu exclusive '70s action featurette. The BD-Live MovieIQ in-movie info feature is also available.
It's not a laugh-a-minute, but when Black Dynamite lands the jokes, you feel it. It's also a loving tribute to a legendary genre of pulp cinema.
Not Guilty, jive turkey.
Review content copyright © 2010 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Verdict Interview with director Scott Sanders