BLACK DYNAMITE Blu-ray Review

     February 6, 2015

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The blaxploitation genre saved Hollywood. More so than the film school revolution, it was in the early 70’s that low budget films like Shaft, Superfly and The Mack were revitalizing the ailing studio system, which hadn’t fully recovered from the bust of the expensive musicals. The genre has some great films but mostly it’s loaded with cheap terrible films, and is so ripe for parody that Black Dynamite can follow the mostly funny I’m Going To Get You, Sucker in its retro refitting of the clichés of the genre and not feel like a rip off of Sucker. What Black Dynamite has is a lead in Michael Jai White who deserves to be a leading man. My review of the Black Dynamite Blu-ray after the jump.

White is Black Dynamite, a stone cold pimp who helps the people in his neighborhood as an ex-CIA agent and master kung-fu expert. The film opens with Dynamite’s brother being killed, and so he’s out for revenge, and in trying to get it he goes up against the mob (headed by Mike Starr), which then leads to a government conspiracy to get Black men to drink malt liquor to shrink their penises.

A goofy movie from frame one, Michael Jai White anchors the movie by being amazingly adept at both the comic aspects of the film and the actual action. Dude can do kung fu for sure. There’s characters who are doing straight riffs on Rudy Ray Moore (Avenging Disco Godfather‘s great line “Where is Bucky?” is homaged.), cameos from people like Arsenio Hall and Bokeem Woodbine playing pimps, Tommy Davidson doing a version of Antonio Fargas’s Huggy Bear, and all of the sorts of clichés one expects from this sort of film. Alas, it keeps the sexual exploitation to a minimum.

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For a while the film spends a good deal of time dropping the boom mike into frame, and a number of jokes based around the incompetency of some of the low budget films they are ripping off. This wears out its welcome as the film isn’t necessarily Brechtian, and the awareness of the movie-movie nature of the film means that even at a less than 90 minute running time, the film loses most of its steam around the time where the character go to the impossibly awesomely titled “Kung Fu Island.” Even when the film ends with a kung fu fight with a president of the United States, you get it after the point where there’s nothing left to get.

As a fan of the genre, they got it and they got it right, but I’ve always thought the best scene in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka was the one in which Keenan Ivory Wayans goes on a date with a woman and suggests he has a foot long penis, but after revealing he doesn’t, his date proves that she isn’t all that she advertised either. This is great because it suggested there was more to the film that just playing homage to the “classics” of genre. Whereas Black Dynamite is entertaining, but can be defined as a feature length sketch, and the only thing that saves it is that Michael Jai White deserves to have a career doing leading man work. He is so compelling that you want a series of Dynamite films just to see him hold a frame. After Spawn and being cut out of Kill Bill, this is solid proof of the dude’s chops.

Sony’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD. The transfer: immaculate. The film comes with a spirited commentary by Director/Co-Writer Scott Sanders, Actor/Co-Writer White and Actor/Co-Writer Byron Minns, with Minns the main Dolemite surrogate of the film. There’s two featurettes that cover the making of: “The 70s: Back in Action” (14 min.) and “Lighting the Fuse: Making Of Black Dynamite” (23 min.), while “The Comic-Con Experience” (18 min.) talks to the nerd reception of the film. There’s also 25 minutes of Deleted & Alternate Scenes that extend certain bits and gives Richard Edson’s character his excuse for disappearing from the film. There are also bonus trailers.

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