Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dynamite Explodes With Laughter

Black Dynamite

If recent Hollywood "comedies", and I use that term loosely, such as Dance Flick and Disaster Movie has taught us anything; is that making a spoof movie is rather easy. The director already has the template of the film he/she is spoofing, so all that is left to do is add a few comical mishaps and the movie pretty much writes itself. Making an homage to a film, or genre, is something that is much harder to do. Many have tried to make a fitting homage but only a few, Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven for example, are actually successful. Upon first glance it is easy to dismiss Scott Saunder's film, Black Dynamite, as a mere spoof of the blaxploitation genre. Yet as you proceed through the film it quickly becomes apparent that Black Dynamite is not a spoof at all, but a true homage. It is a love letter to all that the blaxploitation genre has to offer.

After his brother is killed while working undercover, Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White), an Ex-Vietnam Vet/Ex-C.I.A. agent, vows to get revenge at all cost. Assisted by local pimps and black panther members, Dynamite declares war on all those who wish to infect his community with drugs. As the battle goes on, Black Dynamite soon realizes that a bigger conspiracy is afoot. One that could only be orchestrated by one truly dastardly villain..."The Man."

The great thing about Black Dynamite is that it appeals to a broad audience on two distinctive levels. On one level it is a fun screwball comedy that will entertain novices of the blaxploitation genre. On the other hand, for more seasoned fans of the genre, like myself, Dynamite has everything you have come to expect from a blaxploitation film...and I mean everything! It is tough to find a single aspect of the genre that is not covered in this film. One of my favourite moments in Pam Grier's Coffy, is when Coffy is walking into a building and the films' background music is detailing everything that has, and is about to, happen. A similar sequence is played out in Black Dynamite to great comedic effect. Dynamite is investigating his dead brother's apartment and the background music is warning that you never know who may still be hiding out in your dead brother's apartment. Sure enough, the bad guys are lurking around the corner and a shootout ensues.

It is obvious that Michael Jai White and Byron Mines, who plays Bullhorn in the film, spent a lot of time and care ensuring that all the unique elements of the blaxploitation genre were included in the film. You can see moments clearly influenced by films such as: Shaft, Coffy, Sweet Sweetback's Badass Song, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Dolemite, Willie Dynamite, etc. Yet White and Mines somehow find a way to give Black Dynamite its own unique feel. Similar to how Mike Myers was able to make Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery completely unique from the In Like Flint films it was paying homage to. Black Dynamite never feels like a carbon copy of other classic characters. You can easily picture Black Dynamite hanging out at a bar with Superfly and getting the same amount of respect as that character would.

The only real knock I have on Black Dynamite is that the final act goes on far longer than it needs to. By time the "island" sequence was over I had reached my fill of the film. Not to mention that the final battle with "The Man" is just downright silly. Especially when you consider who "The Man" actually is, and the "supernatural assist" that Black Dynamite gets while fighting this individual. Still, the fact that I have watched this film twice now, and laughed at all the same parts, shows that I am willing to overlook the absurd final act. While Black Dynamite works well on DVD, I wish that it had actually gotten a full theatrical release. I believe it would have done very well in theatres, not Austin Powers numbers, but decent enough. Oh well, at least on DVD Black Dynamite will be able to gain the cult following it deserves. Dynamite.........Dynamite....

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