Hip, Groovy, Fast, and Moody
Blaxploitation Makes a Comeback
By Cole Smithey
Thanks to its crafted use of dialogue, perfectly timed jokes, funky score, and hilarious sight gags, Scott Sanders' lovingly executed Blaxploitation homage had me rolling on the floor. "Black Dynamite" could be Michael Jai White's ("Kill Bill") big break into mainstream features. White delivers an unforgettable performance as a super-soul brother cut from the same purple velvet as Shaft and Dolomite. Blaxploitation plot tropes, deadpan tone, wide lapels, and '70s stereotypes are treated with sublime narrative precision and buttery visual detail. I would love to see Sanders attempt spoof versions of other film genres. He certainly has a magic touch with Blaxploitation.
In keeping with the all-black-all-the-time Blaxploitation grindhouse films of the '70s (see "Across 110th Street"), plot is a minor inconvenience to set the stage for high karate kicks, endless one-liners, and dastardly rhymed monologues dished out by our hero. The murder of Black Dynamite's junkie brother Jimmy, by members of the CIA (i.e. the Man), lights a narrative fuse that burns all the way to an action-packed climax inside Richard Nixon's White House, where a martial arts battle with Nixon leads to Black Dynamite lighting the First Lady's fire. Where "Black Dynamite" deviates from predecessors like "Dolomite: The Human Tornado" (1976), "The Mack," (1973), "Superfly" (1972), and "Shaft" (1971) lies in its quick pacing and quicker edits. Sanders condenses the action so that wordplay and smash 'em up sequences of super-fake violence get equal attention. Surprising googaly-moogaly sight-gags crop up at various points to bring the carefully formulated homage into the post-Farrelly Brothers world of the 21st century.
Dressed in the finest turtlenecks that $9.99 can buy, Black Dynamite is a an ex-CIA commando (shout out to "The Spook Who Sat By the Door" ) who carries a 44-Magnum just like Dirty Harry did. His womanizing ways momentarily meet their match with super-soul-sister-activist Gloria (Salli Richardson), whose tough defenses melt at Dynamite's stoic charm sooner than she would prefer.
From the groovy felt fedoras that the pimps and drug dealers wear to the red headband that Dynamite dons inside his dojo, there's a heartfelt celebration of the attitudes, humor, and rebellious nature of Blaxploitation. That Scott Sanders is able, with the help of a diligent cast and crew, to generate an original-feeling Blaxploitation comedy that gains momentum for an energetic third act is a piece of good fortune.
Team written by Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, and Scott Sanders, "Black Dynamite" could serve as a textbook DIY how-to primer for what it takes to make Blaxploitation cinema. It may be the all-time best party film next to "Animal House." If this movie doesn't make you laugh, call a doctor.
Rated R. 90 mins. (A-) (Four Stars)