Review by Gordon Justesen
Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Byron Minns
Director: Scott Sanders
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 84 Minutes
Release Date: February 16, 2010
“I’m declaring war on anybody who sells drugs in our community.”
“But Black Dynamite, I sell drugs to the community!”
You’d be hard pressed these days to find a comedy, let alone a spoof comedy, that was both hilarious to the point of heart attack inducing and thoroughly creative at the same time. The brilliant Hot Fuzz had both of those qualities, though the spoofing portions were subtle and not so frequent. Black Dynamite, on the other hand, manages to be remarkably creative while at the same time being as outlandishly hysterical in its lampoon antics.
A lot of that may have to do with the fact that the genre being spoofed is that of 70s blaxploitation. If you think about it, this may be the most difficult genre to successfully poke fun the movies themselves already bordered on self parody. And while such movies as I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and Undercover Brother have parodied the genre to hysterical effect, neither of those even come close to the nonstop hilarity displayed in Black Dynamite.
What distinguishes this film from the typical movie spoof is that it goes beyond the normal formula of parody, meaning it plays as if it were an actual blaxploitation film. By that, I mean that every small detail associated with a movie like Black Caesar or, especially, Dolemite has been reflected here. Not only does it look like a film from the period, but such ingredients as the over-the-top camera zoom in effect, the sudden outburst of music cues, the not so well choreographed fight sequences, the extremely amateurish acting and the every-so-often appearance of the boom mic in the frame are included.
The film is something of a passion project for actor Michael Jai White, who co-wrote the screenplay and stars in the title role. White, who’s a real life martial artist, aimed to create a film that would both poke fun and pay homage to the blaxploitation genre, as well as show off his incredibly fighting skills. To get an idea of how perfect White is in the title role, imagine the physical intimidation of Fred Williamson combined with the fighting speed of Jim Kelly…THAT’S how good we’re talking here!
The plot is, as expected, pretty much the same as any blaxploitation film. Black Dynamite (White) is feared by many as the biggest badass in town. So when he learns that his kid brother has been offed by a ruthless criminal organization, he wastes no time in ripping through every street corner looking for those responsible. Along with the help of main man Bullhorn (Byron Minns), he also vows to take down any gang who sells drugs anywhere in the neighborhood.
To be truthfully honest, I don’t think I’ve laughed this much and hardest during a single spoof comedy since Airplane! or Top Secret, which is definitely a compliment since so many recent spoof movies seem to be less concerned with clever gags and more so with how much tasteless humor can be fit into one movie. Black Dynamite has only one sight gag that could be considered tasteless, and even that moment is executed in a most clever manner.
If we had less filmmakers like Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (the guys responsible for dreck like Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans) and more like Scott Sanders, the comedy genre, as well as the world in general, would be a much better place. Not only does Sanders understand and appreciate the art of lampooning, but in the process displays a passion for pure filmmaking. He also understands the value of true comic timing, as oppose to the lazy way out in just naming off countless references.
Notice I haven’t spoiled any of the countless funny gags in Black Dynamite, because they are too hilarious and classic for even a film review to ruin. Let’s just say throughout the course of the movie, you’ll see each of the following; donuts, evil kung fu scientists, an alcoholic beverage with the worst kind of effect known to man and Richard Nixon. Now add in the endless riffs on blaxploitation filmmaking I already mentioned, and you’ve got yourself once classic romp of a movie.
Black Dynamite is unquestionably one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a good long while, and one that I look forward to revisiting time and time again. Not since Anchorman has a single movie been so quotable. And not since the heyday of the Zucker and Abrahams team has a spoof comedy displayed so much brilliance.
“Hey lil' mama, it may be bigger than you, and it may be bigger than me, but it ain't bigger than you AND me, can you dig it?”
Given that the movie was shot on Super 16 color reversal film stock, it’s rather surprising that it looks as good as it does on this Sony Blu-ray release. The intentionally super-saturated look of the picture is nothing short of (what else?) dynamite! This is one of those rare films that benefits from what is, at times, a crummy picture…because that’s what it’s supposed to be. And the Grindhouse-level color scheme has a most solid appearance to it. It just goes to show you that even lowest of quality can look outstanding in the 1080p.
“I will not hesitate to lay the hammer DOWN on any clown that comes AROUND!”
The DTS HD mix is also superb in how it basically accompanies a retro-like format. The music score to the film, which by the way includes one of the best theme songs since Shaft, was recorded using technology straight from the 70s, thus resulting in one awesome sounding presentation. Dialogue delivery is fantastically heard and balances out extremely well with the frequent music, fighting, chases and shootouts. Even though everything here is going for a comedic effect, the action sequences do get a spectacular sense of surround sound, which is very much a neat surprise!
“Your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrification is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery!”
Included is a fun commentary with director/co-Writer Scott Sanders and actors/co-writers Michael Jai White and Byron Minns, as well as two very well handled feautrettes; “Lighting the Fuse” and “The Comi-Con Experience”, as well as a featurette exclusive to the Blu-ray titled “The 70s Back in Action”. All featurettes are presented in HD and run 15-20 minutes in length. Rounding out the extras are 25 minutes worth of Deleted Scenes, Bonus Previews for additional Sony releases, as well as Sony’s MovieIQ trivia track.
Black Dynamite is truly a newfound spoof comedy classic. Furthermore, it has all the necessary ingredients to deservingly become a cult classic. That, I’m hoping, will result in a follow-up movie somewhere down the line, and trust me I am already hungry for one!