Black Dynamite review

Michael Jai White’s spoof of 70s blaxploitation movies, Black Dynamite, gets a UK theatrical release. Here’s Kwame’s review…

Blaxploitation films are generally characterised as films made during the early 70s, which featured young, urban African Americans, working with small budgets while wearing wide bell-bottoms. These films were the theatrical ground zero for themes like ‘The Man’ and urban conspiracy theories concerning the government. They are also known for complementing such freethinking concepts with lots of gunplay, nudity and car chases.

Black Dynamite was well received with a small release in the States of 70 theaters nationwide. The UK will have its chance to see Michael Jai White, Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson and many more in theaters, with its UK theatre release August 13th .

Alternatively, Black Dynamite is already out on sale on DVD in region one coding in the US, containing deleted scenes and a panel discussion with co-writer and starring actor Michael Jai White, co-star Salli Richardson-Whitfield and director and co-writer Scott Sanders at Comic Con 2009.

Black Dynamite is an authentic update of an old genre, setting itself apart from any other parody by recreating the style and tone of films by going as far as to use many different elements from the era: film equipment, the genre’s often amateurish acting and quite literally borrowing footage from the films themselves.

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The idea for the film was inspired in Bulgaria while filming on location for another film. White was listening to James Brown’s Super Bad when the character of Black Dynamite occurred to him, as is revealed in 2009 Comic-Con panel discussion on the DVD. What’s also interesting is that the movie was inspired by a trailer that White shot on his own to gain capital to fund his movie, using rented costumes and 70s filler footage.

White’s Black Dynamite character is a composite one, embodying the African American archetype role of the genre in films like Shaft, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song or Superfly, while actually showing off some skills as an action star. White has seven black belts in martial arts, as it turns out, but relied mainly on just the Shotokan fighting style, as it was the most popular one used in the genre.

Actors Arsenio Hall and Tommy Davidson, along with others, enrich the screen with their appearances in the film as pimps, thus fulfilling an often-used watermark of the Blaxploitation genre.

Even with the film’s bowing to the genre’s influence in the typecasting of African Americans males to act in such unsavory roles, the script actually converts it into an excellent opportunity for some of the film’s comic relief. This element puts Black Dynamite in the territory of Robert Townsend’s Hollywood Shuffle or Rusty Cundieff’s Fear Of A Black Hat, as it piggybacks these clichés to use for its own device.

The script poetically turns nearly every gripe a person familiar with the genre would have against it into something positive, without seeming as if it’s pushing a message on the audience. Instead, it reveals itself as a quality performance of parody, all while paying a wealth of gratitude to the films of the genre.

This movie redefines an old genre with a lot of class, while clearly paying homage to the genre’s greats in a way that is unforced and perversely entertaining when it all comes together.

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4 out of 5