"Black Dynamite" DVD, Blu-ray Review (2010)

2/17/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review

"Black Dynamite"

Directed by Scott Sanders, Written by Sanders, Michael Jai White and Byron Minns, 90 Minutes, rated R.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"Black Dynamite" has arrived in a decade that is dead-set upon recreating the retro styles of old--Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez did it with horror and car chase films with "Grindhouse," Ti West did it with haunted house slasher films "House of the Devil," Edgar Wright did it with British horror and '80s buddy cop films with "Hot Fuzz," and now Scott Sanders rounds out the retro reproductions with "Black Dynamite," a loving homage and spoof of the "blaxploitation" films of the '70s, which included such movies as "Shaft" and "Cleopatra Jones."

Like those films, "Dynamite" is set in a ghetto at the height of blaxploitation '70s. The giant afros, the bright and wild outfits, the pimps and drug dealers--they're all here. Michael Jai White is Black Dynamite, a tough guy with the mission of cleaning up his home town and a past as goofy and inconsistent as the best blaxploitation heroes. He's fought in Vietnam, worked for the CIA, trained in Kung Fu, and before his mother's death (despite also saying he grew up an orphan), he promised he'd keep his younger brother in line. He discovers, however, that his brother was found out as an undercover agent and was murdered by the mob, and now Dynamite will stop at nothing to avenge his death and fixing the city once and for all.

Sanders doesn't use quite the same techniques that Tarantino or Rodriguez have used to make their films appear more like their inspirations--he adds no artificial scratches, burns, etc., but he does use the general techniques that would've been used to make a blaxploitation film, and overall "Dynamite" definitely looks and feels like a legitimate '70s fluff piece. Characters jump out of their chairs and hit the boom mic with their afros, silly sound effects are added to punches and kicks, and the music especially is that perfect mix of funk and jazz prevalent in the genre.

The plot is especially indicative of the era--it starts as a simple revenge story and becomes an entire conspiracy thriller, with subjects ranging from chemical warfare in Vietnam to corruption in the White House (which leads to one of the greatest sequences in the film, where Dynamite faces off against the Commander in Chief in a kung fu fight).

Sanders and White, who co-wrote the film with Byron Minns, have a spot-on understanding of the material and despite the potential to completely lampoon it they maintain a level of sincerity that a lot of blaxploitation spoofs don't. It's relatively steeped in parody, but it's not really insulting to the genre like films such as "Undercover Brother."

The cast is excellent, and it includes a vast ensemble of black comedians, including Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson and Cedric Yarbrough. Danny Aiello also makes an appearance as a hysterically stereotypical Italian mafioso.

Overall, "Black Dynamite" is just a fun and loopy look back at one of the most distinctive and absurd genres of the '70s. Quentin Tarantino has frequently voiced interest in making a blaxploitation film himself, but I honestly can't see anyone, not even the king of neo-exploitation himself, topping this one.

Grade: B+

View the trailer for "Black Dynamite" below. What are your thoughts?

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